Medical Screening of Emergency Department Patients

Revised and approved by the ACEP Board of Directors January 2007
Originally Approved by ACEP Board of Directors April 2006

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) believes that:

  • emergency departments (EDs) should have a standardized process to ensure that patients presenting for medical care receive an appropriate medical screening examination by a qualified medical person; and
  • the examiner should be designated by hospital bylaws, rules, and regulations; and
  • appropriate medical treatment should be provided for emergency medical conditions, as is required by the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA).

ACEP strongly opposes deferral of care for patients presenting to the ED.

ACEP believes that deferring medical care for patients presenting to the emergency department reflects a void in the healthcare system.

In situations in which it is required that patients be deferred, very specific and concrete standards must be adopted by the hospital to ensure patient access to an alternative setting and timely, appropriate treatment. Deferral of care from the ED can have significant risks. Emergency departments participating in deferral of care processes should have active emergency physician involvement in the development of the processes. Emergency physicians should always have the opportunity to further evaluate and treat any patient presenting to the ED and should not be compelled to participate in deferral of care strategies.

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