• Ronnie Shalev, MD

Is this a Medical Emergency?



As an ER doc I often wonder “why did this patient come to the ER?” I see patients that come at 4am for a week long cough. Why? Or I see a parent bringing a child to the ER at 3am for an earache. Why couldn’t this problem wait until morning? Did they need to come to the ER?


All these examples have something in common…...These are NOT medical emergencies.


Recently a grandparent brought their well appearing grandchild to the ER at 2am for a fever. Instead of bringing the patient to the ER, a more reasonable approach would have been to give the patient Tylenol or Ibuprofen, let them sleep, and take them to the doctor in the morning.


The ER is not a place to get convenient care 24 hours a day.


It is a place for MEDICAL EMERGENCIES.


Most insurance companies define a medical emergency as “the sudden onset of a medical 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 patient’s health in serious jeopardy, serious impairment to bodily functions, or serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.”


In short, does your problem frighten you enough to where you think you might die or suffer serious bodily harm? If not, then find another place to receive medical care.


There are plenty of convenient options out there such as Telemedicine, retail clinics, urgent cares, and primary care offices. Remember, if you’ve dealt with the problem for several days, and the symptoms are persistent instead of worsening, then you can wait until morning to receive medical care.


Before going to an ER, think to yourself...Do I think I might need to be admitted to the hospital? Do I think I might need to have emergency surgery? If the answer is no, then it can probably wait.


-Dr. Ronnie Shalev is a board certified emergency medicine Physician and the Chief Medical Officer of MediBookr

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