Benefit Awareness News | March 2018
Emergency? How to hack the ER.
If you’d just as soon stay as far away from the emergency room (ER) as possible, we get it. A visit to the ER can feel unfamiliar and stressful for anyone.
But here’s the bottom line: If you’re in a life-threatening or dangerous situation, the ER is the best and safest place for you.
So how do you stay calm and confident when you have to be there? Learn how the ER works. A little know-how may help you use the ER well — and get in and out with less stress.
(Not sure it’s ER-worthy? See “Is it an emergency?” for tips on how to tell if you need to go to the ER. You can talk with a nurse by calling the member number on your health plan ID card — or using the Health4Me® app. When it’s not an emergency, there may be less expensive options, such as a convenience care clinic or urgent care center.)
What you can expect at the ER.
Here’s expert information and tips from the American College of Emergency Physicians:
1. Checking in. Look for the front desk when you enter the ER — and check in with the staff there. They’ll ask for basic information, such as your name, address, date of birth, health plan ID card and why you’re coming to the ER. If you arrive by ambulance, you or your family may be asked for this information.
Tip: Many people have been surprised by their bill after visiting a freestanding emergency room (FSER). FSERs are not located in or attached to a hospital. But they typically bill at emergency room rates — or higher. So be sure to check on myuhc.com® before you go:
- Is this an urgent care center or a freestanding ER?
- Is this facility a network provider?
2. Assessing the situation. In most ERs, a triage nurse decides which patients will be seen first, based on the seriousness of their conditions. You might be briefly examined when you first arrive. Tell the triage nurse about all of your symptoms, including if you’re in pain.
Tip: If your condition isn’t an emergency, you might get faster treatment at a convenience care clinic or urgent care center. The most critically ill and injured people are always seen first in the ER.
3. Waiting your turn. If you don’t need immediate help, you’ll wait until the doctor is able to see you. If the ER is crowded and your condition is stable, this could take a long time, even hours.
Tip: If your symptoms get worse while you’re waiting, alert the ER staff.
4. Seeing the doctor. When it’s your turn, a doctor will see you to decide how to evaluate or treat your condition. The doctor may order tests, such as X-rays or blood work, before deciding on the next step.
Tip: Speak up if you have any questions. If you don’t understand or follow instructions, you may wind up back in the ER later.
5. Going home. You may be treated and released from the ER. Or you may be admitted to the hospital. If you’re sent home, you’ll be given written instructions on how to care for yourself — and you may be told to follow up with your primary care physician (PCP).
Tip: Always follow up with your PCP after a visit to the ER. Even if you feel fine, it’s important for your doctor to know about the care you received.
What to do next.
When it’s not an emergency — and your primary doctor isn’t available — there are other quick-care options that may save you up to $1,500*.