Throughout the years, we have all had instances where we are not sure whether to use urgent care or the emergency room when a sudden illness or injury occurs. With the holidays upon us and the cold/flu season in full force, it’s good to know what your options are.
Some decisions are straightforward: If your car needs repairs, you go to the mechanic. If you need a haircut, you go to a hair salon. But when it comes to healthcare, the choice is not always so clear.
When you’re feeling sick or are injured, there are several key places you can go for medical care: a doctor’s office, an urgent care center, or the emergency room. Some options to consider include:
Doctor’s Office: Your primary care doctor should be your first call in non-emergency situations. Your doctor knows you and your health history, including what medications you are taking and what chronic conditions might need to be considered in your treatment. Plus, the co-pay for a visit to your doctor’s office will cost far less than a trip to the emergency room.
This option can also help you avoid the long wait times typically found in an emergency room. Even if your doctor is unavailable or not an expert in the area of care you need, he or she can refer you to a specialist or another medical professional. Nowadays, virtual visits can be scheduled so you may not have to go into the doctor’s office at all.
Urgent Care Center: If you can’t reach your doctor or need care outside of regular office hours, urgent care centers are a good option. Urgent care centers have physicians on staff and can provide care for a greater range of conditions, including performing x-rays.
In most cases, the out of pocket cost for visiting an urgent care center will cost less than a trip to the emergency room, but it’s always a good idea to check to make sure the location you select is covered by your plan. You can find a list of the urgent care centers in your network by contacting the toll free number on the back of your medical ID card or logging into your member portal.
Emergency Room: Emergency rooms are designed to treat urgent, acute and life threatening conditions and aren’t the place for routine care or minor ailments. If you feel you are dealing with a life threatening health emergency, call 911 or go to the emergency room right away.
Otherwise, consider one of the alternative options above that can save you time and money, and clear the way for patients in need of emergency treatment.