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.

Urgent Care Pioneer Continues to Spread Access, Affordability

roger_stanmore_md_jdMedExpress, an urgent care pioneer, continues to spread affordability throughout the nation, employing more than 4,500 customer service workers and health care professionals in 177 centers, operating in 15 states.

Approximately 15 years ago, in 2001, MedExpress established its first urgent care facility in Morgantown, W.Va. MedExpress envisioned a cohort of emergency room physicians who offered expedited health care and customer service to patients in a way that was affordable and convenient. Fifteen years later, MedExpress has opened its latest center in its 15th state, with its latest facility open in Eden Prairie and Plymouth, Minnesota.

Chief Medical Officer Thomas Pangburn spoke to the Tribune-Review, where he commented, “From our first center to today, we have always needed talented, dedicated health care and customer service professionals to make MedExpress possible, especially when ‘urgent care’ wasn’t a common term in the healthcare industry. Ensuring we had the teams in place to deliver on our commitment to patient-centric care was our focus then and continues to be today.”

The evolution of the healthcare industry is pronounced, and the medical professions affixed to that industry have made the choice to evolve with it. There are numerous choices that become available to those who requiring assistance for their injuries and illnesses. These neighborhood health partners are prepared to educate patients on their many options. Moreover, they’re obliged to help “patients receive the most appropriate level of care at the right place and the right time.” For patients who find the idea of searching for a primary care provider daunting and don’t want to spend a large sum of money on  an emergency room visit, urgent care medicine is a happy medium. This particular model of health care meets short term goals and services the overall shift to high-deductible plans while providing affordable rates.

High-quality, convenient health service provided by experienced medical teams is ideal, particularly for busy individuals working traditional 9-to-5s. MedExpress and other urgent care centers demonstrate their capacity for success by allowing patients providing service during weekend and evening hours, meeting time-sensitive and unscheduled needs.
MedExpress, like most urgent care facilities, offer transparency, and they accept most major insurances. They’re equipped to handle most non-life-threatening injuries and illness and a fraction of the cost. Today, there are tens of thousands of walk-in clinics in the U.S., focusing on the delivery of ambulatory care in a dedicated facility that differs from a traditional emergency room. A New York Time’s article published 2014 indicated that the urgent care industry is worth approximately $14. Billion, as of 2014.