Prehospitalization care refers to any care that precedes a stay in the hospital, whether for treatment, surgery, observation, or evaluation and diagnosis. The term is often used in insurance policies, to refer to coverage of expenses that are incurred before being hospitalized. This may include doctor appointments, medications, diagnostic tests, and anything else leading up to hospitalization.

Prehospital care may be routine and include evaluations by a doctor who then sends the patient on to the hospital, but it may also include emergency care. Prehospitalization can refer to the care given to patients by EMTs and paramedics before they are transported to the emergency room and while they are being transported. This type of care, both emergency and otherwise, is important in making sure that care in the hospital is efficient and effective.

Non-Emergency Prehospitalization

When the term prehospitalization is used to refer to non-emergency or non-first responder care, it is usually used in the context of health insurance.  Any kind of care received that leads up to a hospital stay is considered a part of this category. This may include medical examinations and doctor appointments, diagnostic tests, laboratory tests, vaccinations, procedures done in a doctor’s office, and medications.

This care is related to the stay in a hospital because it includes evaluation and diagnosis so that the doctor can determine what the problem is. It also may include procedures and medications in an attempt to correct the issue without hospitalization. When all of this care ultimately results in admission for a hospital stay, it is considered prehospital care. Insurance plans typically cover up to 30 days of such care prior to a hospital stay, although the hospitalization itself has to be covered for the prehospital care to be covered.

This kind of prehospitalization care is important because it involves all the medical care that is necessary to determine if a hospital stay is necessary. It also limits the need to be hospitalized. If a patient can be cared for on an outpatient basis, without hospitalization, that is always desirable and is in the best interest of the patient as well as cost-saving. Without good prehospital care, many patients might end up in the hospital unnecessarily.

Emergency Prehospitalization Care

The other type of prehospital care is when emergency medical technicians (EMTs), paramedics, and other first responders administer care to patients before hospital or emergency room care. This kind of care is crucial and saves lives. Many patients who need emergency care are stabilized by first responders until they can be treated by doctors and specialists. This period of care may be brief, but it is life-saving and sets patients up to get the best care in the hospital when they arrive.

Emergency prehospital care begins with a quick evaluation. First responders have to act quickly, so they are trained to assess the situation and the patient, to ask quick but necessary questions, and to decide what the patient needs immediately. If it is a situation with multiple casualties, the first responders also must triage patients and call for additional assistance.

The care that first responders provide for patients is limited by their training but includes basic and advanced life support, administration of medications, injections, and intravenous fluids, stabilization of injuries, use of a defibrillator, stabilization of wounds and blood loss, and more. The level of care a first responder can provide depends on the certification level. For instance, in most states a paramedic has the most training, while EMTs have less training and can perform fewer procedures.

The Importance of Emergency Prehospital Care

The importance of this type of care cannot be overstated. A timely and thorough emergency response by trained professionals increases the chances that a person will survive an emergency and minimizes the risk of disability for survivors. This kind of care not only stabilizes patients, but it provides them with the quickest way to get to emergency physicians. It also prepares the patients for the treatment they will receive at the hospital. These caregivers are an important link in care, communicating with physicians upon arrival at the hospital to smooth the care transition.

Who Provides Prehospitalization Care?

Prehospital care may be provided by a variety of caregivers. For non-emergency care, this may include a general practice doctor or pediatrician, nurses and medical assistants, pharmacists, and other types of medical professionals who may provide treatments that lead up to the hospitalization: nutritionists, physical therapists, radiologists, and many others.

For emergency prehospital care, the providers are EMTs and paramedics. Other first responders who may arrive on the scene of an accident or other emergency call may include police officers or firefighters. These first responders may have EMT or just first aid training, but can provide some care until the EMTs or paramedics arrive. EMTs and paramedics are licensed professionals. Licensing requirements vary by state, but they are trained to provide quick emergency assessments, care, and hospital transportation.

Prehospitalization is a type of care that not many of us think about until we have to face it. But the importance of this care to the health of individuals and to public health cannot be overstated. Emergency responders provide prehospital care that is literally life-saving. Those who provide more routine prehospital care help to prepare patients and make sure they go to the hospital getting the kind of care they actually need. Without good prehospital care, people suffer, and the cost of medical care becomes exorbitant.