Psychiatric Medical Emergency Policies and the Largest EMTALA Penalty Ever

Most hospitals are intimately familiar with the application of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) in medical cases. It becomes more complex and challenging when an individual presents to a hospital’s emergency department (ED) with symptoms of a psychiatric disturbance. We are seeing increased focus on these types of cases by healthcare regulators. Multiple recent enforcement actions include two settlements – $360,000 and $1.3 million – that are far afield from the “usual” $50,000 penalty (or $25,000 for smaller hospitals). From these settlements, we see how problematic practices can significantly compound penalties, particularly in psychiatric emergency cases. Continue reading