I once had a horrible reaction to a sulfur-based drug that was prescribed for me during an emergency room visit.
Why was I in ER?: A pounding headache that became unbearably painful over a weekend and outside the realm of normal doctor's hours.
Diagnosis: Bad sinus infection.
Costs: Don't ask. I was tested and X-rayed for several ailments. I was grateful for the attention, but can you say: Ka-ching!!!
Lesson: I should have gone to my primary care doctor before the headache became so awful.
But without health insurance many people use Hospital Emergency Rooms for basic medical care. And even those with insurance often make unfortunate trips to ER.
Parade magazine recently printed a series of informative ER Tips for better mental, physical and financial health. Here's my summary with a few helpful links.
1. Preventive care. Avoid ER by taking care of chronic conditions or minor aches before problems become serious or life-threatning.
2. Timing: If you're using ER in place of a primary doctor, pick the best times for ER visits for sore throats, flus and other low-grade health problems. Avoid Monday mornings...too busy; too many germs. But other mornings are best for getting in and getting out quickly.
3. Call an ambulance for life-threatening or possibly serious emergencies. Ambulance arrivals have 2 benefits over walk-ins or personal car arrivals: 1) Immediate care from professionals during transporation time; 2) Ambulance cases usually receive faster ER care upon arrival.
4. Tell All: Don't hold back; give the triage staff the complete rundown on your ailments, accident/illness details and medical history.
5. Get names & complete IDs of staff: Stay informed about who is providing you with ER care. Don't be shy about asking for the attending physician or the chief resident.
6. Bring a friend: Bring your own advocate to help you take notes, ask questions, provide information and to stay calm.
7. Be Vocal; Be Polite: Respectfully request prompt care, attention and explanations if you feel neglected or overlooked.
8. Bring data: Come prepared with all digits and documents that you need: including the name of your doctor, health plan number, past history and a record of allergies to different medicines.
Personal note: My mother, I later learned, has the same sulfur-drug allergy and I now mention that allergy in every medical siutation.
--source of Tips: Parade Magazine Oct. 29, 2006 issue
And finally: check your records and bill. My parents have spotted major errors on their medical bills and I wrote about it here. Likewise Five Cent Nickel has also written a series on billing and medical costs.