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.

National Urgent Care Awareness Month Educates the Public About the Importance of Urgent Care Medicine

471377933_1280x720National Urgent Care Awareness Month is a month that’s observed annually and it celebrates the urgent care professionals and clinicians who are a vital part of emergency care medicine and overall health care. By bringing awareness to the industry, we can educate the media, the public, and medical professionals about the capabilities of this particular subsector of healthcare.

Unfortunately, millennials are most likely to be confused about their health care options, which makes it far more difficult for them to seek out the assistance they need when they’re suffering from afflictions. According to a survey by the Urgent Care Association of America, which was conducted for Urgent Care Awareness Month, Millennials are nearly twice as likely as Baby Boomers to be confused about when and where to seek health care. Approximately 15 percent of respondents ages 18-34 have experienced difficulty, compared to just eight percent of individuals over the age of 65.

“During Urgent Care Awareness Month, we wanted to gain insight into the health care decision-making process for all generations to better understand what is important to different types of patients,” said Steve Sellars, MBA, and UCAOA President. “We learned the majority of respondents understand their health care options, but affordability, quality, and convenience are main determinants of where they seek their health care treatments.”

The survey found that Baby Boomers prioritized experienced physicians, while Millennials were more likely to seek out cost-saving and convenience. Approximately 34 percent of individual over the age of 65 prioritized the health care professional they’ll see, compared to 19 percent of individuals between 18 and 34. The location is most important for those between the age of 35 and 44, and having a physician on-site is most important to those over 45.

Urgent care centers are an ideal choice for many who are in need during a non-emergency situation that requires immediate attention. These non-emergencies can arrive in the form of colds, broken bones, the flu, sprains, or common illnesses. Most urgent care facilities are equipped to handle blood work, casts or splints, x-rays, or prescription medicines.

“Urgent Care Awareness Month recognizes the commitment of thousands of clinical providers and administrators, as well as those delivering products and services to this fast-growing industry.” said P. Joanne Ray, Chief Executive Officer of UCAOA. “. This month’s celebration is an opportunity to remind the public that urgent care centers are ready and available to make their lives easier and healthier. While urgent care will never take the place of a primary care doctor for ongoing or chronic care, and is not a replacement for the emergency room in life- or limb-threatening situations, nearly 7,200 urgent care centers across the country bridge the gap between these options and provide an affordable, convenient, quality choice for many common medical issues.

While urgent care will never take the place of a primary care doctor for ongoing or chronic care, and is not a replacement for the emergency room in life- or limb-threatening situations, nearly 7,200 urgent care centers across the country bridge the gap between these options and provide an affordable, convenient, quality choice for many common medical issues.”

5 Pieces of Medical Technology That Could Boost Your Urgent Care Center

14466922893_c3cf1124cb_bU.S.-based urgent care facilities are growing rapidly, sprouting up aggressively across the nation. According to American Academy of Urgent Care Medicine, there are roughly 9,300 centers nationwide, though that number is a little unclear due to the acceleration of this care model. As time moves forward, the marketplace has become a bit more crowded. In order to stand out amid the bevy of urgent care facilities, urgent care centers should have some fundamental pieces of medical technology in order to thrive.

Electronic Health Records

Urgent care facilities are a fast-paced environment, built around an understanding of rapid service, from intake to examination. In order to do this successfully, urgent care centers should put an EHR system in place in order to integrate paperwork with a billing program, to eliminate redundancies, and to ease the electronic submission of claims. Additionally, lab results can be logged into this system. The EHR can also be a resource for physicians who require an answer to a daunting medical question.

iPad EHR

An iPad EHR can help physicians chat with patients while maintaining eye contact, contributing to the overall patient experience. Also, they’re portable, they have a longer battery life than most laptops, and pictures can easily be captured on an iPad, which is important for documenting medical conditions.

CRM Tools

Customer relationship management is important for urgent care facilities in towns where there are competitors. Developing a message that sets you apart, and advertising your facility can help you to beckon patients who may be interested, but uneducated about the benefits of your services. Educate the public through relevant campaigns. You can do this by determining the most effective marketing opportunities, channels of communication, and demographic. Also by capturing and consolidating information on the main database, and identifying projected return on investment (ROI) of each campaign, it makes it so that operators will be more likely to reach a profitable customer base.

Practice Management Software

PM software is more than a medical billing program, it’s can streamline the administrative, financial, and clinical operations within a facility, which would enable physicians to offer patients incredible care. The software can do a number of things, including helping your organization to increase reimbursements, stay ahead of compliance regulations, enhance the patient experience, and improve the day-to-day operations.

Patient Portal

Patient portals are valuable assets, allowing patients to access all of their personal information, everything from an upcoming appointment, to a list of medications, to billing, to lab results, to appointment requests. Today’s consumers want access to information they deem important, and they use that information to help them make decisions regarding their own health. These portals can also offer educational literature, allowing a patient to learn at their own convenience. When patient portals are integrated with EHR systems, it can improve patient care and provider workflow.

Should Urgent Care Centers Embrace Telemedicine?

1024px-Telemedicine_ConsultWhile urgent care providers view telemedicine as a threatening competitor, which could siphon patients from their customer base, the urgent care institution Doctors Care doesn’t feel that way. Embracing the ever-popular “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” philosophy, Doctors Care has chosen to increase its use of telemedicine to offer its patients more options when they’re receiving care.

With 55 facilities across Tennessee and South Carolina, Doctors Care is expanding what it offers its client base, beginning with an investment in technology. The company uses communication systems already in place and existing information in order to offer patients supplemental services. Doctors Care doesn’t worry that telemedicine may divert patients from their brick-and-mortar facilities.

Looking at the model from the perspective of a consumer, officials offering non-medical support services saw the value of providing care to patients in a way that speaks to current trends and the future. Since 2013, Doctors Care has been examining telemedicine and gauging how these services would be incorporated into standing services. The company acknowledged that wait time at some of its urgent care sites could be three hours or more while other location had absolutely no wait time.

Equipping facilities with telemedicine capabilities makes it possible for individuals visiting crowded sites to be seen remotely or immediately, in order to ease numbers in these busier waiting rooms, acting as a load balancing approach. Doctors Care operators found that patients frequently opted to be examined remotely, with medical assistants or nurses administering these examinations. Furthermore, the technology makes so that an all-in-one camera supports dermatological examinations of the nose, ear, throat, eye, or skin, as well as an otoscope. Physicians are also equipped with Bluetooth-enabled stethoscopes, and patients are able to receive X-ray procedures and labs at presentation sites.

Doctors Care builds on existing telephone and network infrastructure to support their telemedicine initiative. This has helped the company to achieve some of its key goals, which are increasing patient satisfaction and reducing patient wait time. By doing this experiment, operators found that many patients prefer telemedicine, regardless of wait time at facilities. This is perfect for conditions that don’t require on-site examination, particularly those for upper respiratory illnesses, fever, ear infection, sore throat, sinusitis, eye infection, life infection, and mild skin conditions. The telemedicine features also include direct-to-consumer consultations. The company spent just $50,000 to expand telemedicine capabilities.

Urgent care is a viable alternative to the emergency room, and provider should be treating conditions or injuries just short of ER needs. Telemedicine is important for low-touch, non-emergency care, and it could enable facilities to offer more care in more venues, in the way of occupational health, specialists, or help operators. Telemedicine being marketed directly to consumers is somewhat new, nonetheless, it treats a subset of patients who have conditions suited for direct-to-consumer medicine.

Some will continue to believe that telemedicine poses a challenge while other urgent care centers will embrace telemedicine wholly.

Birmingham Welcomes Another Urgent Care Center

Urgent Care, Roger Stanmore

American Family Care (AFC), a leading provider of accessible primary care and urgent care, has opened Birmingham’s 14th urgent care medical center. The expansion suggests that the Birmingham community continues to embrace the presence of quality health care that’s accessible and economical. Additionally, the new facility promises to be an additional and needed source of accelerated care.

The new medical center, located in Tennehill Promende shopping center, near the junction of I-459 and I-20, and its AFC’s 46th in Alabama and 160th facility nationwide. The opening of the location grants a continuous opportunity to serve new patients and provide that care at a lower rate while saving patients’ time.

American Family Care has provided non-emergency care from more than 33 years, pioneering the concept of this form of care. Their reach spans 26 states, and each of AFC’s medical centers are designed to provide treatment for primary care, urgent care and minor emergency. These centers are equipped with high-tech equipment, including digital x-rays, electronic medical records, on-site lab testing and state of the art diagnostics. Most importantly, these clinics are staffed with compassionate and sympathetic health care professions, who are available to clients daily between the hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The first American Family Care was founded in Hoover, Alabama in 1982. In 2013, AFC acquire the Doctors Express franchise, which further positioned them to 160 clinics, which is staffed with 500 in-network physicians. AFC provides care to more than 2 million patients each year, offering them services that are economical, timely and convenient. 

Alabama and every other state in the nation has benefited from the urgent care model, which has established itself as an essential aid. Urgent care does what many models can not. It offers express care to patients within a setting that’s clean and stocked with state of the art medical equipment. Also, seasoned professions move quickly while being attentive, which differs greatly from a reality where patients wait for nearly an hour to see a doctor who doesn’t have the time or interest to give them the care and understanding that they should.