Reliable keys to identify a medical emergency

Reliable keys to identify a medical emergency

A larged medical insurance company received criticism for its handling of some emergency room (ER) claims recently. If, after review of an ER visit the company determines the condition was not a true emergency, it will deny payment for the visit, making the patient responsible for the full amount.

Critics, including patients, doctors, and hospital administrators fear this endangers patients , who may be harmed by avoiding  emergency room care for financial reasons.

You may consider an  emergency to be any medical condition which 

  • is new , sudden, and/or unexpected,
  • worse than usual or uncontrolled,
  • of unknown origin,
  • not responding to treatment,
  • not improving or resolving,
  • interrupts normal life.

However, to physicians and other health care personnel, the definition of an emergency is more specific.

An emergent medical condition is one that, if not treated promptly 

  • Threatens life
  • Threatens one or more limbs
  • Threatens vision/hearing/speech/mental function/ function of any major internal organ or organ system
  • Threatens long term and/or permanent bodily harm
Minutes matter with heart emergencies
Minutes matter with heart emergencies

In the United States, a federal law known as EMTALA defines a medical emergency as

“a condition manifesting itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that the absence of immediate medical attention could reasonably be expected to result in placing the individual’s health [or the health of an unborn child] in serious jeopardy, serious impairment to bodily functions, or serious dysfunction of bodily organs.”

Some examples of emergent conditions include 

  • Sudden or new  changes in heart function, like a myocardial infarction (heart attack), arrhythmia (abnormal heart rate or rhythm) or congestive failure (poor pumping capacity)
  • Brain conditions including stroke, head trauma, seizure, psychosis
  • Pulmonary (breathing) dysfunction including pulmonary embolus (blood clot), severe pneumonia, asthma or COPD
  • Multiple trauma, including extensive burns , multiple fractures, or trauma to any major organ like the liver or kidneys
  • Chemical changes in the blood; for example high /low blood sugar, low blood potassium, low platelets,
  • Severe depression and/or anxiety
  • Drug and alcohol overdoses

a person having blood pressure measured

SYMPTOMS of an emergency  include

  • Shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing, especially if not associated with exertion
  • Uncontrollable bleeding
  • A seizure, especially in a person with no previous diagnosis of seizures
  • Sudden or severe loss or difficulty with vision, hearing , speech, or other functions such as swallowing, thinking, walking, passing urine or stool
  • Fainting, passing out, loss of consciousness, severe dizziness
  • Hallucinations, confusion, thoughts or threats of harm to self or others
  • In a pregnant woman- any of the above plus loss of fetal movement
  • Persistent/severe nausea/vomiting/diarrhea
  • Severe pain, especially if it prevents or inhibits body function

Certain groups of people are more at risk of significant illness with any of these symptoms, so emergency care should be sought sooner than later. They include

  • infants up to age 2
  • elderly-most medical references still call this over age 65
  • pregnant women
  • people with suppressed immune systems as from cancer chemotherapy, HIV, malnutrition, other drugs

Chest pain must always be taken seriously, even if mild.

Although in persons under 40 years old it is less likely due to a heart attack, there are other life threatening conditions that can occur in this age group. Again, especially if it is associated with any of the other symptoms, it is emergent.

Learn more about common heart diseases at this previous post

Exploring -when HEARTS break

While on a mission trip to Panama, my husband had a near emergency when a board flew into his leg causing a deep gash; our medical team members took care of the injury right on the clinic site, and he recovered without permanent damage
While on a mission trip to Panama, my husband had a near emergency when a board flew into his leg causing a deep gash; a local surgeon was working with our medical team , and with their help he sutured the wound at the small rural church where we were holding clinic; his leg has healed well, just a scar to remind us of the adventure.

IN AN EMERGENCY  CALL 911!

Helicopters transport of emergency patients can make the difference between life and death.

You should not call your doctor’s office or answering service, your mother, your best friend, or post a question on social media (which I have seen done!)

If it’s not an emergency but is urgent, then the next best options are calling your doctor’s office or going to an urgent care clinic. Posting on social media is still a bad choice. Do you really want your “friends” giving you medical advice about something they know nothing about?

We doctors don’t expect you to diagnose your condition before coming to the ER or the office, and insurance companies either. With using the above guidelines, if you even suspect your problem is an emergency, you are wise to seek help.

Dr. Esther Choo, an ER physician shares

6 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Emergency Room Visit

 

 

Hospital sign- 5 miles to help.

Is it an emergency? Insurer makes patients question ER visit

 

 

 

 

 

I appreciate your  sharing this  information  on your social media pages.

And follow Watercress Words for more information, instruction, and inspiration to help you explore the HEART of HEALTH .

 

 

 

Helicopter landing at a hospital to deliver a critically ill person.

 

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