What is EMTALA Signage?
We received a question recently regarding EMTALA signs. The question dealt with whether or not there have been any changes to regulations that govern EMTALA signage. While we have experience with EMTALA and the impact it has in the signage world, we thought it would be a good opportunity to share information on the topic.
EMTALA stands for the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act, passed by congress in 1986, and ensures public access to emergency services regardless of ability to pay. Section 1867 of the Social Security Act imposes specific obligations on Medicare-participating hospitals that offer emergency services to provide a medical screening examination (MSE) when a request is made for examination or treatment for an emergency medical condition (EMC), including active labor, regardless of an individual’s ability to pay. Needless to say this is a very important law, but what does this have to do with signage?
The EMTALA Operations Manual (located at www.cms.gov/EMTALA) specifies signage requirements at medical facilities to properly communicate the individual’s right to treatment:
“To comply with the requirements hospital signage must at a minimum:
- Specify the rights of individuals with EMCs and women in labor who come to the emergency department for health care services;
- Indicate whether the facility participates in the Medicaid program;
- The wording of the sign(s) must be clear and in simple terms and language(s) that are understandable by the population served by the hospital; and
- The sign(s) must be posted in a place or places likely to be noticed by all individuals entering the emergency department, as well as those individuals waiting for examination and treatment (e.g., entrance, admitting area, waiting room, treatment area).”
Click this link for the required sign text on EMTALA signs and additional guidelines.
The answer to the original question is there have not been any changes recently to the EMTALA guidelines above.
Although hospital or healthcare signage is a very small section within the overall EMTALA legislation, it’s impact may be life-or-death in conveying critical information to patients in need of emergency care.