LifestyleYour Health Matters


When should you go to the ER? A Billings doctor offers guidance

dr nathan allen.jpg
Billings Clinic ER.jpg
Posted at 5:58 PM, Aug 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-03 20:00:34-04

It’s a place where no one wants to have to make a trip to—the hospital emergency department. But every year in the United States, more than 140 million visits are made there—some necessary and some not.

In this week’s “Your Health Matters” segment, Q2 News is looking at when you should definitely go to the ER, and other options that could save you money and be more convenient.

Emergency Department visits have generally been increasing each year in the United States, although some studies show they dropped early in the pandemic. Dr. Nathan Allen has been an ER physician for 11 years, the last six at Billings Clinic.

“It’s definitely a high pace environment and one with opportunity for stress and for challenge. One of the things that I’m proudest about our ED team here is for everyone to consistently every day rise above and deliver great patient care even in situations that appear really intense to people who aren’t there every day,” says Allen.

While emergency room overcrowding—and long waits—have presented a challenge in other parts of the nation, Allen says it has not really been an issue in Billings.

Still, he says there are times when people come to the ER when they don’t need to and there are other times when they simply should not hesitate:

--Life-threatening injury or illness
--Possible heart attack: difficulty breathing or severe chest pain
--Possible Stroke: Difficulty speaking, droopiness on one side of the face, or weakness on one side of the body.
--Severe pain in any part of the body
--After a serious car accident or bad fall

Allen says in any type of life-threatening emergency you shouldn’t hesitate to call 911. But if you are dealing with something that has been present—or don’t have a primary care doctor—there may be better options than coming to the ER.

“We want to make sure that patients are aware of all the different care opportunities that they have. And for some conditions they can get great, appropriate care directly through their primary care doctor, through one of our same-day cares like on the pediatric side or on the general same-day care side or some of our express care locations,” says Allen.

Allen says if you are not sure, you can always call the Billings Clinic Healthline at (406) 255-8400 or 1-800-252-1246 for direction. He says in the case of any kind of life-threatening emergency, you should call 911 immediately.