A Guide to Medical Emergencies: 3 Ways to Plan Ahead

A Guide to Medical Emergencies: 3 Ways to Plan Ahead

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In the blink of an eye, a single accident can turn a good day into an utter nightmare. Sports injuries, falls, burns — they’re not things anybody wants to think about, but they do happen. It’s just a part of life.

While you can’t prevent every mishap, you can plan for them. A well-thought-out plan can minimize the stress of medical emergency cases and (if you’re smart about it) save money, too.

The Importance of Planning Ahead

Emergency departments (EDs) are busy places. Every year, about 137 million ED visits take place in the United States. Not surprisingly, ED doctors say they see spikes during the holidays.

So if you ever have a medical emergency, especially during a holiday, you probably won’t be alone. That means — you guessed it — you’re going to wait. If you have a broken bone, the average ED wait time before getting pain medication is almost an hour. And that’s just once you make it to the hospital. What about the time spent deliberating where to go and how to get there?

Of course, it’s not just about the wait. The cost is another factor. Once you’re all stitched up and back at home, your mailbox likely won’t be empty for a while. Bills from the anesthesiologist, hospital and providers are all fair game. With the average ED visit costing more than $2,000, it’s no wonder Americans, and millennials in particular, tend to rack up medical debt.

Without planning ahead — including thinking through things like whether to visit an emergency room or urgent care clinic, or which facility to visit — you might find yourself paying for those costs outright. Even though most insurance plans can’t require staying in network for emergency services, there’s still a high deductible, if you have one, to reckon with.

3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Prepare

The worst time to think about planning for an emergency is while the emergency is happening — which means the perfect time is right now. Take these steps to ensure you’re prepared for whatever comes your way.

  1. Plan your destination. Where you should go is likely the first question you’ll ask if you or a family member needs emergency care. While ED visits are your best bet for major emergencies, urgent care clinics can be a good option for smaller concerns like ankle sprains or insect bites. They’re cheaper, too: Urgent care visits cost an average of about $170 — many hundreds less than a trip to the ED. To plan for all possibilities, identify one ED and one in-network urgent care clinic near you. If you ever need them, you’ll at least know where they are. Do the same before traveling so you’re not left Googling in an emergency.
  2. Know your medical history. Once you’re at the care center — whether it’s an ED or an urgent care clinic — the provider might ask about your personal health history. It’s a good idea to have gathered that history ahead of time, but don’t worry, you don’t have to carry a stack of file folders with you at all times. Just knowing a few key details, such as allergies and current medications, can help emergency providers treat you and your family in the best (and potentially, most cost-efficient) way possible.
  3. Learn the claims process. Afterward, you’ll want to sort through your paperwork and start the claims process. The provider may have filed claims on your behalf to your insurance plan, but if you have any supplemental plans — like an accident insurance policy — you’ll need to start that claims process independently. Try to be speedy: The faster you do this, the faster you can potentially get your lump-sum payout. To make it easier, it’s good to check with your insurance carrier now about the claims process. Ask what documentation you’ll need and how to file it so that there’s no confusion about what you need to do if the time ever comes.

Taking Care of Yourself

The most important thing to focus on after an accident is recovery. If you were given discharge instructions, follow those to make sure you don’t have to deal with readmission. If you’re asked to do follow-up appointments, schedule those as soon as you can.

After all, medical emergency cases can be stressful, costly events, even in the best circumstances. Wouldn’t it be nice if, during an emergency, figuring out your game plan was already crossed off your to-do list?

Bana Jobe

Bana Jobe is an award-winning medical writer with over 10 years of experience

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