4 Things to Know Before You Go … to the ER

Sometimes it’s unclear whether a trip to the ER is warranted; other times there’s no question that a medical condition, accident or injury needs immediate, emergency medical attention. Either way, your ER staff wants you to get the most benefit from your visit. Here are 4 ways to maximize the time you spend in the ER.

  1. Be in the right place. There’s a good reason the decision to come to the ER isn’t always easy. With so many choices in healthcare, it’s often hard to know where to go. To avoid making the experience frustrating for both you and the doctor, read In Case of Emergency — ER vs. Urgent Care for a more in-depth look at this question. Here are the basics:
    • Call 911 for potentially life-threatening situations
    • Seek urgent care treatment at night and on weekends for issues you would normally see your primary care physician for
    • Head to the ER for more serious injuries and illnesses that are not life threatening but require the specially skilled people and equipment found only in emergency rooms
    • When in doubt, call 911 or go to the nearest ER
  2. Be prepared. It’s impossible to carry your family’s entire medical history in your purse or glove box, but these days you don’t have to. Take advantage of these digital ways of keeping your health information handy:
    • Most primary care and specialty physicians have online patient portals, where you can access your health information from any computer, tablet or smartphone, 24/7.
    • Keep a list or pictures of all your medications on your phone, or download one of the free apps that can store the information for you, such as Medisafe Meds and Pill Reminder. Bonus: it can alert you when to take your meds and in what dosages.
  3. Be honest and thorough. ER patients can impede or delay a proper diagnosis and treatment by giving inaccurate or incomplete information.
    • Don’t be embarrassed to tell the doctor what you’re there for and how you got that way. Ok, be embarrassed, but do it anyway. ER docs have seen it all and being truthful can help them diagnose and treat you faster and more accurately.
    • Don’t fail to tell your ER doctor about alcohol and drug use, smoking, past surgeries or the insulin you take every day. When you’re asked about your medical history and don’t disclose these types of details because you can’t see how they might be related to your emergency, you’re doing yourself and your doctor a disservice. That’s why being prepared is so important, and why digital records can help you be thorough.
  4. Be patient and polite, but don’t be afraid to speak up. Emergency room wait times are nothing like they used to be. These days, the standard is less than an hour, with a goal of 30 minutes. (Average ER wait times are posted on the MedicalCityER.com website.) Still, you may have to wait. Patients are usually seen in the order they arrive, with life-threatening and more serious illnesses and injuries moving to the front of the line. If you think you’ve been waiting too long, have been forgotten, or are just unsure of what’s going on, don’t wait to say something. Just as you would inquire about your place on a restaurant waiting list, don’t hesitate to ask the person at the check-in desk for an update.

Next time you have an emergency, stay calm, take a deep breath, and know that the experienced ER nurses and staff at the emergency rooms of Medical City Healthcare want to help you get the care you need so you can get back to health fast.