Urgency or Emergency? E.R.s Aren’t Always The Best Place To Seek Treatment

Picture this: You need a doctor, but your regular physician isn’t available. Maybe it’s a weekend, or the middle of the night. Maybe he or she is off for the week, taking a well-deserved vacation. Where do you go for medical attention?

In the past, the obvious solution has been to visit the Emergency Room. But that’s not always the best choice. Rising healthcare costs mean that the ER is simply too expensive for non-life-threatening concerns. Additionally, Emergency Rooms, as their name suggests, prioritize emergencies. For some ER patients, immediate treatment is as a matter of life or death. Unsurprisingly, then, if you show up with a twisted ankle or a stomach virus, or even a broken bone, you might find yourself stuck in the waiting room for a long time.

In a situation like that, you’re likely better served going to an Urgent Care Center. Urgent Cares treat more routine illnesses and injuries. They can take care of broken bones, administer stitches, and treat coughs and fevers. They don’t deal with life-threatening emergencies, so they don’t have to prioritize anyone, meaning that your wait time is much shorter. And they tend to be significantly cheaper. The average cost of a trip to an Urgent Care Center is $150; the average cost of a trip to the ER is $1354.

How do you know which to go to? Hospitals estimate that more than half the patients in the ER don’t need to be there. However, if you are severely injured, you need to go to the ER. If you need an ambulance, you need to go to the ER (ambulances don’t go to Urgent Cares.) And if you are having trouble breathing, or experiencing chest pain, sudden numbness, fainting, or seizures, go to the ER, as these things can be symptomatic of something serious.

Also, check with your insurance provider. While Emergency Rooms are generally cheaper, some insurance providers help pay for hospital visits but not visits to the Urgent Care. Or, they may only pay for Urgent Cares that are associated with a hospital. Urgent Cares are a great resource, but unfortunately, they do not work for all insurance plans.

Lastly, don’t get confused by free-standing ERs. These can seem like Urgent Cares, since they’re not part of a hospital complex. However, they function just like regular ERs, so people with non-emergency cases will be met with the same wait times and high costs that they would encounter at a regular hospital.

Patients & Hospitals Are Turning to Urgent Care Facilities For Aid

Extraordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things | Roger Stanmore MD, JDIf you’ve been paying any attention to the American health care system, you’ve probably noticed the rise in Urgent Care Centers.

These facilities offer medical services primarily to people who either cannot access their primary care physician or do not have one. Most patients are sick or injured, but not badly hurt enough to require emergency care. Commonly treated issues include fevers, stomach pains, diarrhea, and minor cuts and sprains. Many Urgent Care Centers also offer services such as vaccinations, blood tests, and STD testing.

Urgent Care Centers fill a much-needed niche. They help reduce wait times in Emergency Rooms, save patients money, and give ER doctors and nurses the space to focus on real emergencies. Many Urgent Care Centers began outside of the hospital system, seeking to offer a solution to overcrowded ERs. But just because Urgent Care Centers aren’t Emergency Rooms doesn’t mean that they can’t be affiliated with hospitals. In fact, many hospitals are now realizing it may be advantageous, both for themselves and for the patients, to team up with Urgent Cares.

Today there are about 7,100 Urgent Care Centers in the United States. Of those, 22% are owned by hospitals, and 15% more are in partnerships with a hospital. Hospitals can send patients to Urgent Care Centers for follow-up appointments. They can also advertise their affiliated Urgent Cares and encourage patients to visit Urgent Care Centers for non-emergencies.

From patient’s perspectives, Urgent Care Centers that are affiliated with hospitals are more likely to accept Medicare or offer financial aid, while also being considerably cheaper than regular hospitals. And while non-affiliated Urgent Cares usually allow patients to send any information gathered at the center to patients’ regular physicians, with affiliated Urgent Cares the sharing is usually more streamlined.

Also, in general, patients are also more willing to trust an Urgent Care associated with a hospital, especially if that hospital has a good reputation. Unaffiliated Urgent Cares may offer good services, but since the whole concept of Urgent Care Centers is still relatively new, affiliated centers have the advantage of familiarity.

It’s uncertain exactly what role Urgent Care Centers will play in the future. New technologies, such as self-diagnosis and self-check-up technologies, will likely be adopted by Urgent Cares even more quickly than they will by more traditional hospitals and independent physicians. And with the shifting climate surrounding American health care, much is still an unknown. Nonetheless, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Urgent Care facilities are here to stay.

5 Tips for an Easier, More Affordable ER Visit

5 Tips for an Easier, More Affordable ER Visit | Roger Stanmore MD, JDEmergency rooms (also known as an accident & emergency departments or the ER) are medical treatment facilities that specialize in emergency medicine. At these facilities, patients can access care without an appointment, and by way of an ambulance, or through their own means. They’re equipped and staffed to provide prompt treatment of those suffering from illnesses or trauma, requiring immediate medical care.

Likely, if you’re visiting the emergency room, you’re dealing with a severe medical issue. Ahead of the visit, you need to assure that you’ll be able to answer all questions about your health insurance and medical history. There are also some other things you should contemplate, with regards to tests, procedures, affordability, and access. Below, find five tips to better your ER visit:

  1. Consider the fact that you may not need to visit the ER. While you may feel that you have an emergency on your hands, you’ll likely endure a long wait and a spend a lot of money to simply learn that an urgent care facility could meet your needs at a reduced cost for less than half the time. The ER is best meant to service those with serious head injuries, seizures, stroke heart attack, and other severe pain –while urgent care units are equipped to treat everything from broken bones, to stitches, to burns.
  2. Educate yourself about your health so that you can share that you can quickly share that information with the hospital. No matter who you see for your medical health needs, be sure that you give the medical professional enough information, so they can properly aid you. Have medical history on hand when you arrive at the ER. Having your health history handy means having a list of your previous hospital stays, the past or chronic illnesses/diseases, allergies, medications/supplements, health problems in your family, and vaccines you’ve received. Consider storing medical records on an app –meaning that it can be easily accessed.
  3. Learn your ER rights, and make sure no one is violating those rights. Insurance companies are required to cover your care if you visit the ER with an emergency medical condition, according to the Affordable Care Act. There’s no need for approval ahead of your visit if your symptoms are severe enough that you believe you may be in danger.
  4. Rather than racking up a substantial bill at the ER, learn if your doctor can run those tests for you. Tests conducted in a hospital will cost a great deal more than they will at other places. If it’s at all possible to safely put off scans and tests, then you should wait until you visit your doctor’s office, where they will be less costly.
  5. Read your ER bills. Upon receiving your ER bill, immediately scan it to make sure that you were charged in-network costs. It’s possible that you could have been visited by a specialist, technician, or another professional outside of your network during your stay. Nonetheless, most plans will cover all ER fees during the cases of a real emergency. However, providers will bill you directly for differences between what your plan pays and what they charge. Either way, you may want to follow up with your insurance company.

    Remember to know your rights, review your bills and insurance reports, and postpone non-essential tests.

Urgent Care Medicine and it’s Rise in the U.S.

Waiting RoomUrgent Care Medicine continues to change. It’s a live thing that constantly revises to meet the needs of the public. As life spans increase, medicines have improved and medical technologies have morphed to meet the diverse needs of patients. 

There are frustrations that exist in the world of medical care. For the patients, it’s long waits at the emergency room. However, lengthy waits in the emergency room can be attributed to congestion due to non-emergency care and an inability to meet with primary care physicians. It’s not uncommon for certain patients to wait weeks before their actually able to see their primary care physician.

The Urgent Care industry re-emerged during the mid-1990s to meet the needs of patients needing non-emergency care. The Urgent Care movement was launched in the U.S., but the healthcare delivery component spread to many nations, including New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the U.K. Over the last eight years, the number of urgent care facilities increased from 8,000 to 9,300. These facilities meet the immediate medical needs of clients, and they’re frequently the main destination for medical care due to the fact that primary-care physicians rarely have weekend or evening availability.

Less than 30 percent of primary care physicians offer after-hour services, which hints at the significance of urgent care facilities. Urgent care facilities provide a breadth of after-hour availability and patients typically only wait just half-an-hour or less when visiting these centers, compared to a multiple hour waits at the emergency room.

Urgent Care centers frequently put patients in touch with doctors, not nurse practitioners, and they provide imaging and other services. These services are available at a fraction of ER prices, and they accept most types of insurance. The availability, extended hours, and costs make Urgent Care centers ideal for patients with non-life-threatening healthcare needs. Moreover, these facilities provide relief to emergency rooms and hospitals, which have drastically reduced in numbers despite the an increase in the number of visits.

There are more than 20,000 physicians practicing in Urgent Care centers around the nation, and that number is growing. Many training physicians currently pursuing a career in Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Emergency Medicine, and Pediatrics are seeking additional schooling for Urgent Care Medicine. Urgent Care doctors are dedicated to treating illnesses and injuries that require immediate care, and point-of-care dispensing allows Urgent Care practitioners to provide prescriptions to patients prior to departure. Though medication dispensing varies from state-to-state.