Everyone’s heard it before. “We were stuck in the ER for hours.” It makes sense; your primary care physician might be booked till next Tuesday, but sudden illnesses and injuries can’t wait that long. So you shuttle your sick or injured loved one to an emergency room and wait. And wait. And … well, you get the picture. Here are some reasons why it might be a better idea to take a quick trip to an urgent care instead of camping out in the ER lobby.
- It’s not life-threatening, but it needs immediate attention. This is probably the best case for going to an urgent care, period. Sure, that broken arm probably won’t kill you, but it really hurts and you can’t exactly wait to get a splint on it. In the ER, you’d be shuffled to the back of the line because it’s not as serious as say, a gunshot wound. Broken limbs don’t get that kind of treatment at an urgent care; you’d be in and out in no time.
- Urgent care is often cheaper. Lots of insurance plans bill you for ER visits that consist of “non-emergency care.” So if you’re vomiting profusely, go to the ER and they tell you you are not in danger (probably just food poisoning), there’s a good chance that cost is coming out of pocket. Urgent care, however, is far more likely to be covered by insurance. Lower co-pays mean more money in your pocket. Really a no-brainer.
- The ER gets more expensive the more we use it incorrectly. Legally, emergency rooms cannot deny care or treatment to anyone, regardless of their status as insured or financially capable. That means that in order to compensate for visits they do not get paid for, they charge more for visits they do get paid for. By visiting an urgent care, you not only avoid the high costs of the ER, but you only pay for your care, period.
- You just need a test. That familiar tickle in the back of your throat. You’ve had strep throat a million times, and it’s no fun. And of course it’s Sunday, so you can’t go to the doctor, but you want to start getting on the road to recovery right away. Do you go to the emergency room for a strep throat culture? Of course not. Half an hour in an urgent care, though, you could swing that.
- You might not always need to see a doctor. Urgent care facilities employ doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants; you name it. Lots of diagnostic tests only require a nurse’s once-over or throat swab to get you on your way to healthier days. Yes, emergency rooms have nurses, too. The chances that they’ve got one with enough free time for your simple strep test, however, are pretty remote.
The emergency room is an important tool in the health care system and should be used appropriately. If you have difficulty breathing, severe chest pains, heavy bleeding, things like that — go to the ER. That’s what it’s there for. Next time you need medical care that’s quick and easy, consider a trip to your nearest AFC/ location.