Hollywood has done us a disservice, with its dozens of movies and TV shows portraying emergency rooms as hectic, disorganized places where you can be stuck in a cubicle and forgotten about for hours.
What happens in a real ER is a long way from that, but the myths still abound. We’re going into ghost-buster mode today to clear up some of the most common ones, and to put an end to the perceptions that might stop you going to your local ER when you need it.
Myth #1: You’re Going to Be Ignored for Hours
This is a common belief and it’s fostered by the experiences of patients who go to hospital ERs when they have a common cold or a cut on their knee. Certainly, the ER is busy and it’s a fact of life that the more serious patients get seen first, so it’s a given that a minor ailment is going to be last in line.
In a freestanding ER, however, the wait times are often a lot shorter than at a hospital and certainly much faster than waiting for an appointment to see your family physician.
Myth #2: Half of All ER Visits Are Non-Emergencies
Sure, you’ve been to the ER and seen people waiting who don’t appear to be in the throes of a life-threatening condition. That doesn’t mean they don’t need urgent attention, however. When someone develops a cold or flu it might seem trivial, but if they are a patient suffering from chronic asthma or COPD, or have a compromised immune system as a result of long-term diabetes, getting comprehensive and immediate medical attention can be crucial.
So don’t discount the need of others in the ER, just because you can’t easily determine what they might be dealing with.
Myth #3: The ER Is Disorganized and Inefficient
When you need treatment, the last thing you want is to be sent from pillar to post for the different tests and care you require. Emergency rooms have the advantage of being fully staffed on a 24/7 basis by board-certified physicians and registered nurses, who are qualified to treat all urgent cases.
Facilities include radiology and lab services, pharmacy and ambulance, and ERs offer care for patients of all ages with almost all conditions. This makes it possible to do in hours what it would take days to achieve through your family physician.
And for those conditions that require full hospitalization, transferring from an ER to a hospital with a partner agreement is recognized as an emergency and treated accordingly with fast, direct admission.
Myth #4: Pediatricians Are Better Doctors Than ER Physicians
This simply isn’t true, because a board-certified ER physician is trained to treat far more childhood emergencies than pediatricians do. More than 21 million children are treated in the United States ERs every year, and the huge majority of these don’t need hospitalization for the condition they sought care for. When your child has an allergic reaction, an animal bite or a sudden fever, you don’t have the time to get an appointment with her regular pediatrician. That’s when your local ER offers you the medical care you need.
Myth #5: ER Care Is Expensive
According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, only 3% of all health care spending in the U.S. goes to emergency medical care. That covers the treatment of 120 million people a year across the country, so even if a particular case might seem to cost a lot the overall picture shows that this isn’t so.
Myth #6: The ER Is Full of Uninsured Patients
We’ve all seen the episode where the ER doctor is torn between wanting to treat uninsured patients but is being forced by the system to turn them out to face their fate elsewhere. Research from the CDC shows that 83% of patients treated in the ER have some form of insurance. So you can rest assured that getting attention you need isn’t going to be delayed while the staff grapple with their consciences about uninsured patients.
Myth #7: The ER Won’t Take Me Without Insurance
This is the flip side of myth #6, but you’d be surprised how many people believe they won’t get treated in the ER if they don’t have insurance. Most ERs offer the option for self-pay, however, along with a range of payment methods for your convenience. Whether you have cash, credit card, or a check to pay with, the ER will give you the care you need.
Don’t let these myths get in the way of receiving the treatment you need. If you feel severe pain, fever or weakness at any point, a visit to your emergency room will get you the right medical care for your condition.