Which ER Should You Go To?

April 11, 2011

Please see Kevin M.D.’s recent guest blog about choosing a hospital and your consumer rights.

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Chances are there are several hospitals in your area. If you witness a friend experiencing a stroke, do you know the best ER in the area for her?

Of course! You and your friend cased local facilities months ago, and when the paramedics arrive, you authoritatively tell them where to take her! You have checked with your own doctor, spoken with a county paramedic or two, talked with the policewoman on your beat, and made very sure that the hospital emergency department fulfills those three “must-have” criteria, listed in order of importance, which the hospital itself must also pass:

Is it accredited by the Joint Commission?

Does her physician have rights there?

Will her insurance accept it as a treatment facility?

Well, let’s say you are just a tiny bit behind on your advance health care planning project. And let’s just pretend that you don’t really know of all of the facilities in your area from which you can choose.

Googling “emergency rooms” and nothing else will yield a map of ER locations. Easy. Now we check up on which ones meet your three mandatory criteria. (Of course, you can at any time decide to retain a professional patient advocate, saving you tons of time and frustration in your investigation, and who will probably already have most of this information.) You discuss this aspect of your medical care with your primary care doctor, or more realistically, his nurse. Remember that even if you are in a metropolitan area with many great facilities, certain hospitals will have areas of specialty, such as strokes, and others will be first choice for trauma.

Personally visit each facility during an “off” time (hint: this would not be late Saturday night). Note how the personnel behave toward the patients and interact with each other. Good communication between staff members maximizes your chances of great care. A calm professional demeanor is preferable to a harried, disorganized environment. Note the level of cleanliness, neatness, and efficiency. Are the hand sanitizer dispensers functional and placed in various areas? Are the restrooms clean? (This last is often the acid test of the cleanliness of the entire Emergency Department or any entity.) Does the staff notice whether you are there?

After your research, organize the contact information for all of your choices. Inform your medical team and family members of your preferences and ensure that these are reflected in your file. Have a list of those facilities posted next to your home’s “Info Central” (often the refrigerator!). Then both of you can rest more easily, knowing that you’ve greatly increased your chances of top-flight care if you are in a situation requiring fast decisions and action.




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