Crozer Offers New Optional HIV Testing During an Emergency Department Visit
- Thanks to a new grant through the state of Pennsylvania, the Crozer-Chester Medical Center Emergency Department now offers free, optional HIV testing to all patients.
- Testing is voluntary and declining testing will not affect a patient’s rights or medical care.
- Patients who test positive can begin treatment almost immediately to extend and provide a better quality of life, so catching it early provides better treatment options and possibly stops the disease from spreading to significant others.
Thanks to a new grant through the state of Pennsylvania, the Crozer-Chester Medical Center Emergency Department now offers free, optional HIV testing to all patients.
Patients are eligible for free testing if they are between the ages of 13 and 64 and are seeking emergency treatment, regardless of the medical reason. It is a simple saliva test and results are available within 20 minutes. Testing is voluntary and declining testing will not affect a patient’s rights or medical care. If a patient tests positive, a blood test is sent out for verification. Getting the results back takes approximately one week.
“In the beginning, we were not doing many tests - we only received permission from patients to give 8 tests in November 2009. Since then, there has been a dramatic rise each month in interest in obtaining the test. The reason for this is that the nursing staff is more comfortable asking patients if they want to be tested, and patients will often get tested for peace of mind,” says Beth Fuller, R.N., clinical nursing director of Emergency Services and EMS at Crozer-Chester Medical Center.
Why test? According to the Centers for Disease Control, it is cost-effective. Patients who test positive can begin treatment almost immediately to extend and provide a better quality of life. Patients are given a direct link to care with a referral to a physician or services that will provide the needed medical attention for the virus.
“There are so many new medications now for patients with HIV that if you detect the virus early, then you can extend your quality of life,” says Karen Dougherty, R.N., clinical manager and forensic coordinator in the Emergency Department at Crozer.
Dougherty also says that patients could have the virus up to 10 years before it presents symptoms, so catching it early provides better treatment options and possibly stops the disease from spreading to significant others. No one plans on getting HIV, but with medication and medical intervention, a person with HIV can have a full and productive life.
“This is a great initiative for the hospital to undertake. It helps us to continue to provide our mission of serving the community through education and medical assistance. Crozer’s Emergency Department is unique in offering this service as very few other Emergency Departments have this capability. It has already had a dramatic positive effect on several patients who have had the disease aggressively treated as a result of its discovery in the Emergency Department,” says Bruce Nisbet, M.D., chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Crozer-Chester Medical Center.
Fuller says, “The important thing is for individuals to get tested. And if tests come back positive, then they should begin treatment immediately.”
HIV testing is only available to patients who are being treated in the Emergency Department or immediate family members who are with them during their visit. Free and confidential testing is available at state-designated testing sites. Anonymous test sites do not report names to anyone, including the Department of Health or a local health department, but will provide emergency departments with test results.
Call the Pennsylvania Department of Health AIDS fact line at 1-800-662-6080 for a testing site close to you. For more information about the Emergency Department, call 1-877-ER3-4030 (1-877-373-4030) or visit http://er3.crozer.org.
Crozer’s Emergency Department is one of the busiest in the region, treating more than 50,000 patients each year. It is the largest ED in Delaware and Chester Counties and the only one in Delaware County with a regional trauma center — the Crozer Regional Trauma Center (Level II), and access to a regional burn center — the Nathan Speare Regional Burn Treatment Center. Visit http://er3.crozer.org for more information.