ER or Not?

I am often asked by patients, “When is it appropriate to attend the emergency room after a vehicle related accident?” First of all, let’s spend a few moments discussing why it is advantageous to avoid an unnecessary ER visit. Having worked in emergency rooms for several years myself, ER patients are triaged according to the severity and life-threatening nature of their presenting symptoms. Thus, somebody with severe chest or abdominal pain, a gunshot wound, severe asthma, and numerous other medical and traumatic conditions will be appropriately seen before you are. Thus it is not uncommon for an emergency room wait to be in the range of two to eight hours if you do not have life-threatening injuries. Emergency room care is also at least five times more expensive than receiving the identical care in a medical office. This is in part due to the fact that the emergency room has to be staffed 24/7 (in case that service is going to be needed urgently). Thus, you can save a significant amount of time and money by avoiding an unnecessary ER visit.

You should ABSOLUTELY go directly to the emergency room (preferably by ambulance) if you have any of the following situations after an injury: loss of consciousness for more than a few seconds, severe chest or abdominal pain, bleeding that will not stop with simple local pressure, or an obvious fracture (that is, a bone that obviously is in a “bent” position). In almost all other situations (by my experience, approximately 95% of the time), an unnecessary ER visit can be safely avoided. Instead contact any of our offices and you will be worked in urgently (often on the same day). This will allow you to receive excellent care without unnecessary delay and at a fraction of the cost of an ER visit. Let me end with a caution. Despite the above recommendations, if you are at all concerned, always err on the side of caution and be seen in the emergency room immediately after an accident/injury.

A Better Way to Get Better,
Adrian Lewis
Adrian Lewis, MD