If you are suffering from what you think to be a life threatening emergency, you need to go straight to the Emergency Room, or call 911. Once you arrive, you may find that your condition is not as life threatening as you think. Once you have been checked in, it can often take hours before you are even seen by a triage nurse. Once you are seen in triage, you are often sent back to the lobby to wait for several more hours before you will be able to see a doctor. Rethinking your approach to seeking medical care may get you seen quicker, and for less money.
What Is A Medical Emergency?
There are some true medical emergencies in which you either need to dial 911, or head straight to the emergency room. Some examples are:
If the condition is life threatening. These may include:
- Respiratory distress or not breathing at all
- Severe chest pains
- Uncontrolled bleeding
- Severe burns
- Loss of consciousness, or prolonged unconsciousness
- Head or spinal cord injuries
If the condition could worsen during the trip to the hospital.
If moving the patient will cause additional injuries.
The patient needs access to immediate medical techniques, skills, or equipment.
Concerns that traffic, or distance would cause a delay in the patient getting the needed medical treatment.
If you are in doubt about whether or not it is safe to transport the patient to the hospital.
In all of these cases, you will want to dial 911 and have emergency personnel respond to you. If your patient is suffering from these, and you feel that you can safely get the patient to the hospital, you will want to go straight to the Emergency Room. These conditions usually constitute a medical emergency which would benefit from prompt treatment by Emergency Room doctors. Other conditions, or minor cuts, burns, and even fractures, may be treated faster at an Urgent Care Center.
What Is Urgent Care?
Urgent care centers offer you the ability to get medical care on a walk-in basis. They are able to treat illnesses or injuries, that do not necessarily rise to the level of emergency care. These are illnesses, or injuries which will not result in immediate death if not treated, but could have negative consequences if not treated within 24 hours. Most locations also offer preventative care, regular check ups, and even sports or work physicals.
Many centers have been opened by hospitals, or emergency room physicians, as a response to an increased need for unscheduled medical care. They usually have x-ray, as well as laboratory services. These are not to be confused with retail clinics which are the medical locations that are found within retail locations.
The Advantages Of Urgent Care
Urgent care centers offer a wide criteria of care for a much lower cost. They cost less to operate, and are able to pass along these savings. Most insurance plans will have a much lower co-pay if you utilize a medical care center, than if you use the emergency room. At the urgent care, your co-pay is usually all that you owe, while at the hospital, you may be charged for the emergency room visit, as well as physician services. Many insurance companies are starting to refuse to pay if your condition does not rise to the level of an emergency, which will leave you to pay the full bill. If urgent care feels that your condition needs to be treated at the emergency room, they will not hesitate to refer you there. Many times in these cases your urgent care co-pay will be reimbursed to you.
Urgent care centers do not have the wait times that you may experience at the emergency room. While there may be a slight wait at urgent care, you will usually be seen based on the order that you arrive. The emergency room is going to see patients based on the severity of their emergency. This means that if they deem that your condition can wait, you often will. It may literally be hours before you are seen, and even longer before your test are returned, and your condition is diagnosed and treated.
Urgent care centers are often open for approximately twelve to fourteen hours per day. Hours vary by location, with some locations offering services 24 hours per day. The extended hours will give you the opportunity to get services outside of the time that your primary care doctor is open.
The next time that you need treatment, but you do not think that it rises to the level of emergency care, head on over to your nearest urgent care. Not only will you be pleased with the level of care, but you will also be pleased with the cost.