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Top Ways Patients Can Protect Themselves in the Emergency Room

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Although emergency room doctors and nurses work hard to provide quality healthcare, the chaotic conditions in a busy ER may result in a patient falling through the cracks and receiving substandard care. Knowing what to do when seeking emergency care can help you protect yourself during a stressful time.

Know Your Rights

Most medical facilities have adopted a statement of patient rights that enumerates the rights, benefits, and services that patients can insist on. Facilities frequently post their statement of patent rights in a visible place somewhere in the patient areas and may provide written copies of patient rights upon request. You should also familiarize yourself with the hospital’s policies and procedures, including identifying which staff members you can ask questions to or who can advocate for your interests, such as a nurse or a patient ombudsperson. 

Prepare Critical Information

Although you may need to go to the emergency room at a moment’s notice, you can prepare a medical information kit now to bring to the ER in the future. Consider creating an electronic document to store on your phone or the cloud to access it if you have to go to the emergency room. Your medical information kit should include your health insurance details, contact information for your emergency contact(s), a list of your medications, allergies, and current health issues, and a medical/family history. 

Clear Communication

Clear communication can go a long way to preventing tragic mistakes by ER staff. Clearly describe your symptoms and concerns to nurses and doctors; do not try to minimize or exaggerate your symptoms. Ask pointed questions about diagnostic testing, potential diagnoses, treatment options, and risks/side effects of treatments. Do not hesitate to speak up if something doesn’t seem right, such as staff trying to perform tests/treatments or administering medication unrelated to your diagnosis or complaints. 

Bring a Support Person

Bring a family member or trusted friend to act as an advocate and support person. A support person can act as a second set of eyes and ears. They might notice details you miss and ask questions you haven’t considered. A support person can also advocate for you and, if you’ve formalized the relationship through legal instruments, make treatment decisions if you become incapacitated, ensuring continuity in your care.  

Practice Infection Prevention

People go to the emergency room when they need treatment for contagious diseases. You can protect yourself from hospital-acquired infections through frequent handwashing (especially after touching chairs or door handles) and wearing a face mask. You should also insist on a clean environment in the ER, proper disinfection of equipment, and sterile practices like glove-wearing by healthcare providers. 

Understand Your Tests and Treatments

When providers recommend tests or procedures, you should ask about the purpose of a proposed test or treatment or the risks/side effects of a procedure or medication. You can also ask about the implications of specific test results. Remember, you can request a second opinion if a healthcare provider’s initial diagnosis doesn’t seem right. 

Stay Engaged in Your Case

Since emergency rooms can get busy and chaotic, you can best protect your rights by proactively following up with your nurses and doctors if you hear nothing after a long time. Take notes of conversations with your healthcare providers (a support person can help you fill in details) and document your diagnoses, prescribed medications, treatment recommendations, and follow-up instructions.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney If You’ve Suffered Emergency Room Negligence

Knowing how to protect yourself in the ER can help reduce your chances of becoming the victim of a careless error. If you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of having suffered injuries or medical complications due to negligent care from emergency room staff, you need experienced legal representation to guide you through the legal process and advocate for your right to hold healthcare providers responsible for your harm and loss. Contact Hunt Law Firm today for a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to discuss your legal options for seeking financial recovery.