The differences between urgent care and the emergency room may seem small but they are significant. Medical services offered, visit costs and dealings with insurance all change based on whether you’re visiting an urgent care center or an ER. Learning the details of each facility will make your decision easier during sickness or injury. Take a moment or two to discover how these organizations differ from one another.
Deciding Between Urgent Care and the Hospital
Visit Urgent Care For Less “Threatening” Conditions: For those times when you can’t see your regular doctor, urgent care is a good solution. Statcare Urgent Care stays open during nights, weekends and holidays to offer medical services outside of your regular doctor’s hours. Urgent care can assist with all routine medical care, such as diagnosing an illness and prescribing medication, performing blood tests as well as treating injuries like fractured fingers or broken arms. In addition, Statcare’s emergency care doctors are well versed in stitching up minor cuts, thoroughly treat earaches and headaches, and unlike the typical health practitioner, they also see kids and perform women’s health exams.
In general, urgent care services do not include operating rooms or other highly advanced medical equipment found in emergency hospitals. Therefore, they should not be used if you have a severe medical concern that requires surgery. Still, urgent care facilities often contain essential medical tools, such as X-rays and standard lab tests that can help diagnose or treat your immediate medical concerns quickly. Put simply, urgent care is a very efficient way of getting immediate medical attention and offers far more resources than your primary care physician. Urgent care has the ability to give IV fluids, IV Antibiotics, perform X-Rays, blood tests, give refills and give vaccines for animal bites and injuries.
Emergency Rooms Are Ideal For Critical Illnesses and Injuries: Open 24/7, emergency rooms take care of the more critical conditions, such as heart attacks, strokes, a broken back or a head injury. Made to serve those in more serious conditions, it’s essential to make sure your problem is severe, not just for the sake of other patients in need, but also for the sake of your wallet. Typical tools found in emergency rooms include: CAT scans and MRIs, radiology labs and ultrasounds, in addition to operating rooms and highly certified doctors in different sectors. For example, an obstetrician delivers babies, and a cardiologist studies the heart. Unlike urgent care, if a patient needs to stay overnight, beds and rooms are made available.
Cost Differences Between Urgent Care and an Emergency Room
According to healthcare.gov, “fixing a broken leg can cost up to $7,500; and the average cost of a 3-day hospital stay is around $30,000.” Certain insurance plans may cover a large amount of the damage, however, the out-of-pocket expenses can still put a dent in your wallet. Typically, the out-of-pocket maximum for policyholders averages around $7,000–though that’s better than paying $37,500, an extra $7,000 expense can be a major challenge financially. These costs become even more jeopardizing for those without medical insurance. Many plans nowadays will charge the consumer an additional $500 deductible which is waived only if the ER visit resulted in the consumer getting admitted to the hospital. It is always a good idea to call your plan and know what your financial risk is for going to a hospital emergency room. Ultimately, it’s in your best interest financially to go to urgent care before checking into an emergency hospital if your health allows you to.
To help our patients, Statcare urgent care accepts most insurances including: MetroPlus, Medicare, Fidelis Obamacare, Affinity, HIP, GHI, HealthFirst, Emblem Health, Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Oxford, United Healthcare, Vytra, Cigna, 1199 National Benefit Fund, MagnaCare, Medicaid Managed Care Plans, straight Medicaid and others. For those without insurance, Statcare urgent care has transparent and reasonable costs-fees. Statcare accepts cash, along with all major debit and credit cards from patients who want to pay for their medical care.
The average urgent care visit costs around $150 whereas an ER visit costs $750. If cost is a major concern for you or your family, urgent care is a better choice for you as insurance co-pays tend to be quite less for urgent care than the emergency room. This number goes down even more if you use Statcare Telemedicine services. Through our online doctor, you can get immediate attention, diagnosis and a prescription all from the convenience of your house.
Dr. Evans (Emergency Medicine MD), says, “trust your gut,” adding, “if your personal instinct or your motherly intuition tells you it’s serious, don’t hesitate— go to the nearest emergency room.” Serious symptoms that you should go to the ER for include: slurred speech and trouble breathing, weakness/numbness on one side, chest pain, seizures, serious burns, and other conditions listed on Mayoclinic.org.
For lesser issues (or ones that you intuitively feel aren’t emergencies) visit urgent care. Symptoms you can get checked out at urgent care include: fever and flu symptoms, headaches, mild asthma, minor cuts, burns and sprains, coughs, sore throats or colds, urinary tract infections, back and joint pain, and animal bites. Doctors at urgent care have the knowledge and tools to handle a wide variety of medical problems in children and adults..
Urgent Care Does Not Include Beds for an Overnight Stay
Unlike urgent care, emergency rooms have space and proper equipment to keep patients overnight in a medical emergency. Although some urgent care facilities do offer 24-hour service and most are open every calendar day, they do not provide a room for patients to stay for extended periods of time. ER’s handle surgical procedures, trauma, CAT Scans, and any other life-threatening situation, thus they also offer hospital rooms for their patients. Certain hospitals (such as Tri-City Medical Center) offer emergency rooms for psychological care as well. Try to decide whether you think your medical concern will require an overnight stay and you will be able to determine whether you should seek treatment at an ER or urgent care facility.
What Should I Choose–Urgent Care or the ER?
As Dr. Evans mentioned, when it comes down to it, you may intuitively know whether your illness or injury is too severe and life-threatening for urgent care to handle. Listen to your body, try to note whether the pain is persistent or if it’s improving over time. Don’t rely too heavily on online forums to help diagnose yourself. Try to get to a doctor as soon as possible. If you aren’t sure, call the urgent care and ask if that is something that is a medical condition they would be able to treat at their facility. Remember, you can always be transferred to an emergency room from urgent care, and it will save you money to see an urgent care doctor first should you not end up needing emergency services.
According to debt.org, “70 percent of patients at urgent care centers use health insurance and their only cost is a co-pay.” Typically, urgent care visits range from $50 to $150, depending on the level of treatment and the patient’s copay. Comparatively, debt.org states that in 2013, the “National Institute of Health study put the median cost [of hospital treatment] at $1,233,” adding that “other estimates pushed it to as high as $2,168.” In the end, it’s better for you to try seeing an urgent care doctor if you can. Of course, money shouldn’t cause you to avoid the ER if you’re seriously hurt or injured. However, it’s a good incentive to help you figure out whether you’re in sincere need of advanced help or if you can get assistance at urgent care. Lastly, it’s important to note that in the ER, wait times change depending on the severity of a condition of patients continuously being brought in to the ER by ambulances, while urgent care serves on a first come first serve basis. Also, most ER wait times advertised by hospitals on highway billboards are registration times. They would not reflect the actual time it will take for you to be seen by the emergency medical doctor from the time you entered the Emergency Room. With all this in mind, you should now feel more confident in knowing what service to choose: the emergency hospital or urgent care.