ER 101

Unfortunately, it’s likely that you’ll find yourself in a hospital emergency department at some point. One in three Americans visit the emergency department each year, for a total of more than 150 million visits. Each of these individuals comes with a unique set of circumstances and medical issues, and emergency physicians often must use their judgment and expertise to quickly determine the best course of treatment in life and death situations.

Emergency physicians are medical professionals who are dedicated to saving lives and providing the highest quality of care to all their patients—regardless of their ability to pay. While nearly 70 percent of emergency care services goes uncompensated or undercompensated, emergency physicians are committed to providing this care because otherwise many patients would go without treatment. 

Unlike most physicians, emergency physicians are prohibited by law from discussing with a patient any potential costs of care or insurance details until they are screened and stabilized. This is an important patient protection enacted under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) that ensures care is focused on immediate medical needs.

Open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, many hospital emergency departments are crowded places, where doctors treat many different patients during long shifts. However, if you’re in a medical emergency—there is no substitute for the emergency department, which has special equipment and highly qualified physicians, physician assistants and nurses to respond to every kind of adult or childhood illness or injury. 

Emergency physicians treat the toughest cases—and often must make decisions with limited medical information. An emergency physician might deliver a baby or stitch a young boy’s deep gash or comfort a teenager after a suicide attempt. These doctors save lives every day and are an integral part of our nation’s health care safety net.

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