The ER Visit: Feeling Empowered

It is important to know that when you go to the emergency room, you or a family member still can be part of the decision making process as to what tests or procedures are done.  I will modify that statement by saying a life threatening event falls outside this discussion because the stabilization of a patient is paramount but  relevant information and updates is not.

I am finding an unpleasant trend developing in many ERs of over compensating with tests, radiological exams and procedures for less urgent symptoms without regard to insurance or self pay.  In the past, ERs have been prudent about the ordering and had strict guidelines as to the ordering process.  What is surprising is some of the tests don’t even track with the symptom presentation.  I find it is worse in July when the new crop of residents come on board and start ordering without the correct guidance.

I have seen lab tests like full illegal drug screens on senior patients with no relevant symptoms.  I have seen radiology tests like CT scans for symptoms like weakness and fatigue.  I see the bills because either the insurance won’t pay, the coinsurance is high or the it is self pay.  I also see the opposite of no tests when it is clinically necessary.

It is within your rights to ask what tests are being done and why.  I was at an ER with a client and family member who was needing hospitalization for an ongoing issue.  Both were well versed in the illness, the medications and what might happen.  The doctor came in to the room and started saying what was going to happen with tests.  The family member interrupted the doctor and basically said, no to some of the tests.  The doctor had a moment and began to explain why the tests were necessary.  The family member explained why it wasn’t going to happen and what doctor in the hospital to contact.

There can be a tendency to feel helpless in the ER.  It is important to ask questions about what is going to done for you.  It isn’t always easy to get answers or know exactly what is happening especially if you have been waiting for a long time.  HIPAA gives you the right to ask the questions and get the information you need to make an informed decision about your care.  If possible, have someone with you to help with any decisions or new information.  If you don’t like what you are being told, do not be afraid to speak up.  You will get the care you need.