What happens when you’re kept in the ER for observation

There are countless medical terms that patients may be unfamiliar with, such as “observation stay.” Don’t hesitate to ask a doctor or nurse for clarification if you aren’t sure what something means. At Good Samaritan Hospital , our emergency care providers are here to serve you, and that includes providing excellent patient education. If you need to be placed under observation, we’ll clearly explain why and discuss what you can expect.

Definition of observation care
If you need emergency care for a life-threatening problem, such as a heart attack, then you can expect to be admitted to the hospital. Anyone who is admitted to a hospital becomes an inpatient. This is also known as receiving inpatient care or services.

In contrast, outpatients include anyone who visits the hospital for care, but does not stay there after receiving an evaluation and treatment. Most patients who receive emergency care are outpatients.

Observation stays fall into a gray area between inpatients and outpatients. A patient under observation isn’t actually admitted to the hospital, and so he or she isn’t an inpatient. For medical coding purposes, this patient is considered an outpatient, even though he or she might stay at the hospital overnight.

Reasons for observation stays
Observation stays are necessary because they allow healthcare providers to continually monitor patients who may be at risk of developing complications.

For example, if you go to the ER with chest pain, an EKG might not indicate a heart attack. You can then be placed under observation because of the possibility that a heart attack will occur. You might also require some more tests before you leave the hospital, or you may be admitted as an inpatient if your condition worsens.

Length of observation care
The length of time you might be under observation depends on your specific medical condition and how quickly you recover. Patients under observation are usually discharged within 24 hours. It’s not common for a patient to be kept under observation for longer than 48 hours.

Good Samaritan Hospital is committed to providing the best possible emergency care for families throughout San Jose. We’re pleased to announce that we’ve begun a major ER expansion project to reduce wait times even further and give our patients the specialized, superior care they deserve. Call 911 for emergency medical services or, for non-emergent questions only, call a registered nurse at (888) 724-2362.

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