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Healthwatch 16: Emergency medicine in a pandemic

How one health system is handling the current crisis

Coronavirus headlines truly have taken over these days. But emergency room doctors know people still need them for heart attacks, strokes, traumas, and many other true emergencies that require immediate medical attention.

"Emergencies don't stop. Heart attacks still happen; traumas still happen; strokes still happen. Geisinger emergency departments are open and available. They're clean, safe, and there is staff available to take care of you," said Dr. Ronald Strony. "The biggest change operationally is the visual of what will happen in emergency medicine. You'll go through screening tests, and depending on that screening. It'll help direct you to an appropriate location. You may see people who are dressed differently or doing things differently, but you'll still be treated the same way you would for your condition."

Are fewer people coming to the ER?

"We have seen fewer people, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It's the community helping health care help us manage people who need it the most, especially those in high-risk situations," Dr. Strony said.

"That nagging back pain you've had for three months probably doesn't need the ED. Now with a lot of different ways to treat, such a telehealth, we can manage that problem, not in the ED."

"It's going to be the new face of health care. Geisinger put a lot of time and effort into bringing it online as soon as possible. And it's been met with favorable response from most folks who have used it," Dr. Strony said.

Dr. Strony adds it's no doubt busier in emergency medicine these days, chaotic even at times, but a pandemic like this is something that Geisinger Health System has been preparing for, and is not overwhelmed by, ready to treat coronavirus and non-coronavirus emergency issues.