Mary Ellen Palowitch on EMTALA [Podcast]

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By Adam Turteltaub

In 1986 the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA) was enacted. As Mary Ellen Palowitch (LinkedIn), Senior, Managing Director, Dentons Health Care Group, explains in this podcast, just because it is long established doesn’t mean health care providers have it completely under control. Issues continue to come up.

EMTALA requires hospitals that participate in Medicare, including rural emergency hospitals, provide medical screening to determine if there is a medical emergency. If, in fact, the patient requires treatment, the hospital must provide stabilizing treatment within their capabilities, regardless of whether the patient has the means to pay.

Two areas often cause confusion and real issues under EMTALA. They are best known by the phrases “clinically stable” and “stable for transport”, neither of which is defined in EMTALA.

Clinically stable, she explains, may be anything from a comparison to how the patient presented when first presenting or reflecting the patient’s overall condition.

Stable for transport is a term commonly used in hospitals. It does not technically mean the patient is stable, but it signifies that the patient has achieved the level of care that the hospital can provide. Basically: the hospital has done all that it can, and it may be more prudent for the patient to be transferred elsewhere for the care needed.

Complaints do arise under EMTALA and may come from patients or their families. When one is sent in to the government, a multistep process begins. The complaint is reviewed and can lead to an onsite investigation that may include comparisons to how other patients were treated, interviews with staff, a tour of the emergency department and review of records.

Hospitals found to be deficient are required to remediate promptly.

Listen in to learn more about how to avoid and manage EMTALA issues in your emergency center.