Leaving the ER Without Being Discharged

Thinking of Leaving the Hospital Before You Are Discharged? Do So at Your Own Risk

I have worked with Bellaire Emergency Room for quite some time now and one worrying trend that I realized during my time is that of patients walking out of treatment before they can actually be discharged by the doctors. I knew that this was not a problem in our emergency room alone and sought to find out some numbers concerning this issue. I conducted a small research and the figures are quite astonishing to say the least.

In the year 2015, over 500,000 people left before discharge which is almost a 45% increase when compared to the number of people who walked out of the emergency rooms before treatment and discharge in 2010. This is a worrying trend that needs to be addressed and today I want to sensitize people on the same issue. I want to take a look at some of the most common reasons cited for walking away from the said institutions and then look at the effects of leaving the emergency room before you are actually discharged by a doctor.

The most common reasons cited for people walking from treatments midway include;

1. Impatience – emergency room waiting times are increasing as a struggling economy forces hospitals to close and more people to lose the health care coverage that would have allowed them to be examined by a primary care physician in a less-hurried setting; many patients get tired of waiting and choose to leave without receiving proper care. Sometimes people leave before they are attended to by all the relevant medical practitioners. They lose interest because they are forced to wait for too long before they can be attended to.

2. Poor quality care- Some people walk away because they deem the quality of service poor. I am sure that is not a problem here at Bellaire because I am 100% convinced about the quality of services offered here at Bellaire. People cited poor service delivery and sluggish staff in other emergency rooms and ended up leaving before receiving the required medical care.

3. Financial constraints – The third issue and the one I deemed more pertinent was the financial constraints. Patients without comprehensive health insurance may fear the costs associated with prolonged hospitalization or invasive tests. They can maybe manage to pay for the first few treatments but with time they realize that the bills accrued are beyond their prowess and they end up leaving before being discharged.

Is it wise to walk away before being discharged?

The idea leaving the emergency room before receiving the required medical attention should not even cross your mind. Patients who leave without waiting for vital test results could be putting their very lives on the line. Furthermore, if a patient is correct about their assumption that their treating physician is not providing them with high-quality care, they could jeopardize their right to bring a claim of medical negligence by leaving without being discharged. If you feel like the medical practitioner is offering subpar service, just write a complaint or air your grievances to the authorities. Leaving before reporting the cases will be wrong because you have left a loophole in the system which can prove costly in the end.

If you leave midway through the treatment and end up developing complications, you will not have a case against the emergency room or the parent hospital. Even the most skilled medical malpractice attorney might not be able to help if a patient clearly contributed to his or her injuries by leaving in spite of adequate warnings by health care providers, so any decision to leave against medical advice must be carefully weighed. Think twice about leaving midway through the treatment, you might even end up on the wrong side of law.

If you are insured, you might also risk losing insurance cover by walking out before the doctor writes you a discharge order. Most insurance companies will not pay even for the first few treatments that you had already received. This is deemed as an AMA (against medical advice) ad it favours the insurance in case you decide to follow up on the payment they did not make. If you want to lose your insurance cover, then walk out before being discharged.

So, what should you do instead? What is the best solution? Should you bear with the poor service you are receiving?

If you feel like you are not getting proper medical care in an emergency room, ask to speak with a supervisor. Many hospital facilities also employ patient care advocates who might be able to help you express your concerns to the treating physician in a way that will result in better care. For the purposes of preserving a possible medical negligence claim, it is important that you exhaust as many grievance methods as possible before choosing to discharge yourself.

At the end of the day, it is about you and your life. Never think about discharging yourself unless there is no ay other viable alternative.