The best time to check out your local freestanding emergency department is before you actually need it:
• Is the facility open 24 hours a day? You don't want to show up bleeding when the doors are locked.
• Which hospital or hospitals does the ER have a transfer agreement with for patients who require further care or hospital admittance? Is it a hospital you trust, and can your doctor practice there?
• Are the physicians on staff board-certified in emergency medicine? If not, that's not a deal breaker. Emergency medicine is a relatively new specialty. But if they are certified, all the better.
• Does the facility have, at a minimum, diagnostic X-ray, CT scan, and laboratory services? MRI and ultrasound are use-ful as well.
Finally, next time you see your primary care physician, ask if he or she would use the facility if a family member had a medical emergency. If the answer is no, find out why.