Not many of us visit emergency rooms on a regular basis. When a medical emergency arises, we often debate which precautions to take before, during, and after our hospital visit. There are often stressors, external forces, and time constraints associated with the trip. Patients must quickly prepare themselves and ensure they have covered all of their bases before they enter the emergency room. But what will I need when I walk through those sliding doors at the local ER? Urgently Health is here to provide you with a comprehensive list of the top five things to keep in mind before a trip to the emergency room.

1. Identification and Payment Information

The first and most integral part of a trip to the walk-in clinic or emergency room is ensuring that you have identifying documentation on hand that are easily accessible. Upon entering a medical facility, one of the first questions that a patient will be faced with is that of providing proper identification (i.e., driver’s license) and their insurance card. Most hospitals will need your insurance card and information so that they can properly bill you for the services that they provide. It is unlikely for young children or healthy individuals who visit emergency rooms infrequently to already be in the facility’s database; therefore, you should carry a physical copy of your identification and proof of insurance into the hospital with you.

2. Records of your Medical History

When we are faced with a medical emergency, many of us panic. It is human nature to worry and be unsure of what to do. Firstly, assessing the situation is very important. Having a few set symptoms to convey to a nurse and physician will help to expedite the treatment process. Secondly, it is helpful to have easy access to your medical history. Often an emergency related to a comorbidity can be related to a medical issue that has been diagnosed and treated in the past. For this reason, having documentation of your personal medical history on hand can help a doctor pathologically decipher the root cause of your current symptoms.

3. Know Where to Go

Patients that attend the same facilities repeatedly are more likely to be seen and attended more expeditiously. If you are a patient who needs frequent medical care because of a prolonged medical issue, then it is likely that you have a facility in mind that you are comfortable visiting and returning to repeatedly; however, in an emergency situation, many of us just rush over to the closest local hospital that we know of. Sometimes this is a fine selection. But many times, it would behoove us to know where we should go for a specific emergency. Some hospitals are equipped with better and more advanced scanning machinery and technology. On the other hand, a facility may staff a physician with more expertise on your specific type of injury. The more research one does beforehand, the more likely you are to know about the best fitting facility for your situation.

4. Know Your Wait Time and Options

The connotation of an emergency room is that you will receive fast-paced reliable care. We know that we can go to our emergency room at all hours of the night, and we can count on their medical staff to treat us and to ensure we are discharged healthily; however, the emergency room may not always be our best bet, especially as of late. Nationwide we are experiencing exponentially longer wait times in hospitals due to understaffed units. U.S. News and World Report states that the District of Columbia is currently the state with the highest emergency room wait time with an average of 286 minutes before a patient is even seen by a medical professional! Knowing your wait time and your alternative options could be a matter of life and death in some situations. For these reasons, considering an urgent care as an alternative could be a lifesaver.

5. Discharge isn’t the End of Medical Care

Following a visit to the emergency room, patients are handed discharge paperwork, helped to their transportation, and sent home; however, medical care often does not end at that point. Being treated at an emergency facility is serious and should be handled thoroughly. Usually, one’s discharge paperwork will outline the care that was given, on-going treatments, and any tests and recommendations that should be completed to ensure the patient fully recovers. In the days following a patient’s discharge, it is recommended that they contact their primary care physician. Their doctor’s office should be informed that the patient spent a period of time being treated at a local ER and they should be aware of the current and on-going symptoms that may have arisen. At this point, it is the responsibility of the patient and their physician to ensure follow-up procedures are followed through with and completed within a timely manner.