My parents have always been planners. Whenever they had to drive somewhere new, my dad would have the map out on the kitchen table, navigating the route hours before the rubber hit the road. And of course, a thorough check of the traffic reports was always mandatory. As a teenager, I used to roll my eyes. What’s life without some spontaneity? I’ve since learned that there are definitely times where it’s better to be prepared.
Visiting the emergency room is actually one of those times. Of course, when accidents or acute situations happen, the luxury of time and planning go out the window. Then it’s a case of getting help as quickly as possible. But many visits to emergency can actually be managed more efficiently.
Experts here at Sunnybrook say, it all starts with patients using their discretion. Is the problem you’re experiencing new? Is it serious? Those questions often need an expert to answer, but in some cases, like a flu or cold, it could be a better approach to call your family physician first. TeleHealth Ontario is another option for all those non-urgent problems that always seem to happen in the middle of the night.
If you are coming to emergency, it’s recommended that you bring a complete list of the medications and supplements you are currently taking, and as much information on your medical history as possible. Also, avoid eating or drinking. If certain tests need to be performed, that can actually delay the process of getting your diagnosis.
And while it’s tempting to bring as many people with you as possible for emotional support, remember that many hospitals have a 2-visitor policy. Here at Sunnybrook, the emergency department may be dealing with as many as 50 patients at a time, and providing the best care means having the space to do so. It’s also for the consideration of other patients being treated.
Sunnybrook has the highest acuity of ill patients in Ontario, likely because of the specialized programs available here. That includes being a Regional Stroke Centre and housing the largest trauma program in the country. Sunnybrook has also done some amazing things to reduce wait times, including incorporating different zones in the emergency department for different levels of illness, taking on more physician hours and new initiatives to improve patient flow.
That said, health care is always a partnership between the patient and provider. So back to the driving metaphor, take the wheel when you can. As I now carry on my parents’ tradition of checking roadmaps (OK, Google maps!) and weather reports, I fully know that unforeseen traffic problems could put a wrench in my plans. But I do what I can, and hope for the best.