To comply with the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), EDs can refer patients to an urgent care center if the medical screening exam reveals no emergency medical condition, or once ED staff stabilizes an identified emergency medical condition.

  • Once a patient is stable, the ED has no further obligation under EMTALA.
  • If a patient referred from an urgent care center doesn’t really need to be in the ED, the law still requires an appropriate medical screening exam.
  • Emergency physicians should document thoroughly the screening exam and the absence of an emergency medical condition.