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Why You Should Consider Avoiding the Hospital During the Holidays

The holidays are often busiest times in emergency rooms due to common holiday mishaps such as falls from hanging lights or car accidents due to bad weather. Therefore, patients can help by being be well-informed and know when something is an emergency and something is not.
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An emergency department sign.
An emergency department sign.

Did you know that the last six weeks of the year can be most stressful for health practitioners? This is something that patients who may be planning to schedule time in the hospital before the end of the year should be aware of. It is common for people who have a paid insurance deductible to try to get in any necessary elective surgeries they were told to have before their insurance policy potentially changes in the coming year. However, this becomes a problem during a time like the end of the year because that is a common time when health practitioners take time off, or are extremely busy due to backlog.

The holidays are often busiest times in emergency rooms due to common holiday mishaps such as falls from hanging lights or car accidents due to bad weather. Therefore, patients can help by being be well-informed and know when something is an emergency and something is not. There are many health issues that arise during holidays are not medical emergencies. Those that should be treated immediately include:

• Chest pain
• Stroke symptoms (i.e. numbness on one side of body, face, arm or leg, trouble walking, speaking and seeing in one or both eyes)
• Excessive, uncontrolled bleeding
• Difficulty breathing

Tips to Avoid the Hospital During the Holidays

The holidays are often is the busiest time for ERs. Use these tips to keep your family safe and healthy, as well as avoid hospitals during the holiday season:

1) Plan before scheduling surgery.
  • If having elective surgery or non-emergency procedure, make sure to talk to your doctor/surgeon about scheduling. If you really want them to do procedure, make sure they'll be around to perform it as well as for follow-up care.
  • See a family doctor regularly - can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in the long run, prevent unnecessary ER trips, and increase chances of early detection should a medical issue present itself
  • Get cholesterol and blood pressure checked, share any family history of medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer with your doctor.
  • Take preventative measures to avoid cold or flu
2) Beware common holiday mishaps.
  • Be careful hanging holiday lights - can be dangerous.
  • Look out for things in your home that could prove hazardous during the holidays, including open fireplaces, electrical issues, poisonous plants like mistletoe and holly berries, or areas that put guests at risk for falls.
  • Be careful driving - car accidents due to bad weather and drunk driving are common reasons ERs see more patients during the holidays.
  • Wait time can be long at ER during holidays.
  • Many hospitals across the country are implementing screening processes to determine which patients have true medical emergencies. Those who are not emergent but wish to receive care at the ER will be required to pay a fee upfront.
3) Seek treatment at urgent care or walk-in clinics when appropriate.
  • Anything from sprained ankles and fractures to sore throats, ear infections, cuts and falls can be treated at an urgent care or walk-in clinic, which is often open later than family doctors' offices.
  • Familiarize yourself with the urgent care clinics in your area before an accident or health event occurs.
  • Seeking treatment at one of these facilities for non-emergency medical issues can save you and your family significant time and money.
4) Know when a visit to the ER is really necessary.
  • Many health issues that arise during the holidays are not medical emergencies.
  • Those that should be treated immediately include chest pain, stroke symptoms (numbness on one side of the body, face, arm or leg; trouble walking, speaking and seeing in one or both eyes), excessive, uncontrolled bleeding and difficulty breathing.
  • Severe stomach pain that is accompanied by other symptoms such as coughing up or vomiting blood, dizziness or fainting, and vision changes should also be treated immediately in the ER.
  • ER visits can be expensive and often frustrating for families.

If you are planning to have surgery during the holiday season and it cannot be postponed, make sure you know if and when your doctor is going to be available and if they will be around for follow-up care. As long as you are under care of a doctor who is hands on and available 24/7, you should not worry about trying to avoid being in hospital during holidays. If you are having elective surgery or a non-emergency procedure, make sure to talk to your doctor about their schedule. If you want them to do the procedure, ask questions to make sure they will be around to do the procedure and for follow-up care.

If a patient has to be admitted, there are some things they should understand about the hospital culture and receiving the best possible care during their stay. Make sure to select the best hospital closest to you so you can receive the best possible care. Larger hospitals such as teaching hospitals or major trauma centers are known to be more equipped with more experienced staff and resources. If possible, it may be worth the extra commute to get to a hospital like this. While smaller, lesser known hospitals can provide excellent care, the larger hospitals are best for major surgeries, complicated illnesses, and any major health problems. Many doctors have different ways of caring for their patients. It's important to have a doctor who has a team of staff committed to your care, is hands-on, and available 24/7. This type of culture is essential to getting the best care.