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.

Youth Soccer Athleticism, Increased Injuries & Emergency Room Services

Roger Stanmore, MD, JDAccording to reports, the number of U.S. children seeking emergency room care has soared in numbers in recent years, thanks to sports injuries. More precisely, soccer injuries. The trend has marked many young athletes, who often arrive with concussions and requiring urgent medical care.

After analyzing 25 years of data, it was revealed that there was a growing interest in popularity. Also, sports medicine experts and researchers believe that the rise in diagnoses can be attributed to the fact that the public is better educated about concussions and their possible risks. For this reason,  parents and coaches are currently more likely to seek out treatment via emergency rooms.

Between 2000 and 2014, there were nearly 3 million players, aged 7-17, who received emergency room treatment following a sports-related injury. The number of sports injuries coincide with soccer’s rising popularity, attracting children with a broad range of athletic ability, and that’s resulted in soccer-related injuries doubling from 106 per 10,000 players in 1990 to 220 per 10,000 players in 2013. Conclusively, data suggests that there’s an overall lean toward injury prevention and safety education when youth soccer is concerned. There are unfortunate consequences that could result from concussions, including issues with brain development and cognitive function.

Dr. Huiyun Xiang, the lead author and a researcher at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, led the study that focused on the trend. Published on Monday, September 12th in Pediatrics, the report shows that the rates of soccer-related injuries rank second behind football among youth sports. The greater the number of football-related concussions, the greater the number of ER visits for boys. When girls are concerned, soccer is the leading sport resulting in concussions.

While most players aren’t hospitalized, the most common injuries are fractures and sprains caused by getting hit by the ball, head collisions, or by falling. Swelling concerns over soccer-related injuries has encouraged the U.S. Soccer Federation to implement restrictions, which includes banning children aged 10 years and younger.  There are proper techniques for avoiding injury while playing soccer, such as tensing neck muscles. Children, particularly those who aren’t very athletic, should work to build adequate strength for playing soccer.
The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research raised deeper questions about programming plyometrics for athletes.

The Survival Guide for Those Seeking 24-Hour Urgent Care

An_ambulance_in_KievVisiting a 24-hour urgent care center may seem a bit strange, particularly when they’re placed between an Arby’s and a Chick-fil-A. However, these medical way stations offer legitimate care. 24-hour urgent care centers may be few and far between, but particularly outside of metropolitan areas, but they exist, offering assistance to those who don’t warrant an ER visit and don’t have access to one’s primary care doctor. The all-day potential access to non-emergency health care is important for communities seeking health assistance. Here are few tips to consider when your 24-hour care center:

Contact Your PCP: Although you won’t likely be able to reach your doctor or staff late in the evening, you will likely reach an answering service, which will be able to direct you to a preferred urgent care center. In-network urgent care can save you the trouble of going of waiting to your PCP.

Online Doctors: If you’re not able to leave home and you’re interested in avoiding urgent care facilities, then you should consider telemedicine. Chat with an online doctor first and decide if an in-person visit is required, or learning if your needs can be met through a virtual visit.

Consider Local Reviews: Yelp and Google don’t simply list ratings for restaurants, they also rank health care facilities and urgent care centers. Urgent care centers tend to be privately owned and operated, which is why customer experiences differ from location to location. Research different locations before choosing one.

Have Your Insurance Card on Hand: Urgent care centers accept many major insurance providers. Having your insurance card in your pocket will mean that your visit will be covered by your insurance. Also, if urgent care centers don’t accept your particular type of insurance, you can get an estimate of services and decide if that price is within your budget.

Bring entertainment: Whether you bring a book, a puzzle, or music, have something on hand to enjoy while you wait for your time to visit with the doctor. While visits can be as little as three minutes or as long as an hour; waiting times may vary. Before you go to the urgent care center be sure to call the center and ask about wait times.

There are numerous urgent care facilities in and around Alabama, consult your Yellow Pages to locate the nearest 24-hour urgent care center.

9 Alternatives to the Emergency Room: Ways to Pursue Emergency, Urgent Care When You’re Uninsured

CCBRT_Disability_Hospital_waiting_room_1_(10679012155)When you’re injured, suffering, or hurt, the last thing you want to worry about is being confronted with questions concerning your insurance carrier –particularly when you aren’t insured.

It’s possible that you’re one of the millions of U.S. residents who is without health insurance, which challenges overall life quality and healthy. Often, one’s financial situation determines their health, because if someone feels that they can’t afford a physician, they’re more likely to tolerate long term pain or suffering caused by injuries or accidents. Postponing medical attention is an unfortunate reality for millennials, the elderly, and many others in the U.S., who consequently lose their lives. Many are totally unaware that uninsured individuals have choices beyond the emergency room, which is far more expensive that urgent care facilities or a primary care physician.

There are numerous options for those fearful of receiving an astronomical bill –even free options available to those without insurance. These resources are available to the public, accessible by all of those who need it.

Primary Care Physicians

While doctor’s offices welcome insurance coverage, they also accept cash. Actually, medical facilities frequently prefer dealing with cash over insurance claims. Also, it’s advisable to inquire about a sliding scale or discount prior to services, and getting that in writing by a facility supervisor or a doctor. By simply asking questions and being persistent, you’ll be surprised by how far it can get you.

Direct Primary Care Providers

Uninsured patients can enlist the services of a direct primary care provider, which is an option that’s affordable and convenient. It’s a fact that some individuals even choose to reduce traditional healthcare coverage in favor of a direct primary care provider plan. A flat fee is paid each month, and that membership enables access to all levels of primary and preventative care. Monthly fees vary by doctor, with plans as low as $49.

Urgent Care Facilities

Strip malls and unforeseen locations are seeing urgent care facilities spring up. Urgent care prices are competitive with regular physician visits, and the hours for urgent care clinics tend to extend far beyond normal business hours. Urgent care physicians are able to deliver non-emergency care at a lower fee during the weekend hours and during the evening. Also, waits tend to be shorter and the staff tends to be more attentive. Urgent care facilities are ideal locations for those want to opt for care that’s more convenient and more accessible than emergency rooms. Depending on the office, you may want to call ahead.

Walk-in Clinics

Walk-in clinics are an incredible medical care option, particularly for those without insurance. These are preferred by locals, travelers, the underinsured, and the uninsured. Certified practitioners usually work in these walk-in clinics, and walk-in clinics are often placed at the rear of pharmacies and grocery stores. They’re equipped to treat UTIs, strep, and other things involving labs. Walk-in clinic visits tend to be priced at half that of regular doctor visits.

Free Clinics

There are health care facilities known as free clinics, which offers services economically disadvantaged individuals for nominal costs or for free. The care is provided to those with limited income, no insurance, and without legal status. These clinics often charge nominal fees to those deemed able to pay their fees, while offering services to the underinsured, those with limited coverage, and those with insurance policies that include high deductibles. Routine illnesses or injuries, long-term chronic conditions, medical testing, women’s health care, dental care, and prescription drug assistance can be treated at free clinics. There are free clinics located in California, Michigan, Virginia, California, Kentucky, Idaho, and New York.

On-Campus Clinics

The Affordable Care Act has made it so that young people can stay on their parent’s plan until they are 26. For those students who belong to uninsured parents, they can still access on-campus clinics, which doesn’t have access to sophisticated diagnostic testing or equipment, but can be sufficient in a pinch. Also, it’s low-cost or free service.

Community Clinics

Community clinics offer prenatal care, primary care, vaccines, prenatal care, and specialist services, and they are ideal outfits for those with low levels of income. Cost is normally determined by an income-based sliding scale.

Health Screenings

Low-cost and free health screenings are available throughout the nation. Doctor’s offices, hospitals, and clinics hold public health screenings throughout the year. They screen for breast cancer, diabetes, and cholesterol. These screening raise awareness around a disease that threatens communities. Facilities also hold day-long screening events.

Counselors/Therapists

Free, low-cost, and sliding-scale mental health clinics provide counseling and therapy to treat substance abuse and depression. Stand-alone offices typically accept cash patients, and these non-profit care facilities are frequently able to bridge gaps in healthcare, particularly for those who are pregnant, disabled, or have a chronic disease. For government-funded programs, patients are expected to meet certain income requirements.

Those without a clear understanding of what care and clinics are available to them will fail to find the help that they require. For that reason, it’s important that there are conversations around resources that are made available to the public.

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.

Urgent Care or the Emergency Room, Which One Should You Visit?

16288-a-female-doctor-examining-a-patient-pvStrangely enough, there are still large populations of people within the U.S. who are totally unaware of the presence of urgent care facilities. Not only that, but many individuals who are aware of urgent care facilities are totally oblivious to the differences between urgent care and the emergency room.

It’s not unusual to watch someone rush off to the emergency room after discovering a new episode of illness or after one has injured oneself. However, depending on the nature of the emergency, there are different places that individual should visit. For a long time, the emergency room was the only option the public in case of an emergency or when a primary care physician was unavailable. However, there’s a new option available to the public now, urgent care.

While primary care physicians and emergency departments are foundations for the healthcare system, urgent care center have unveiled their value by offering convenient, time-efficient and inexpensive service during evening hours and at night. Urgent care facilities are able to see and assist patients with non-life threatening conditions who require care. Emergency rooms were designed to treat critical conditions such as broken bones, deep gashes or similar emergencies. Urgent care facilities were designed to treat vital, but non-threatening health issues.

Emergency rooms will always remain essential, but being seen there will always be an obstacle because the emergency room is obliged to see everyone. By law, emergency rooms are tasked to care for everyone, 24-hours-a-day and seven days a week. You don’t have to have an emergency to be seen there, and there’s a mandate that requires them to evaluate all patients and ensure that they’re safe enough to go home. 

Emergency waiting rooms become crowded because people want access to that acute-care and the numerous services. The emergency room is definitely the place to go if you require a cardiologist or a neurosurgeon, but urgent care center are more appropriate when you seeking physicians and nurse practitioners who can care for less serious issues.

Because urgent care facilities don’t offer quite as many services as the emergency room, it’s more cost-effective. The effective, low-cost facilities accept most forms of major insurance and they offer affordable pricing to those without insurance. Urgent care facilities are equipped to care for an earache, sore throats, sinus infection pink eye, fever, stomach flu, colds and upper respiratory infections. Also, they’re able to offer treatment for broken and sprains, stitches, and labs, x-rays, IVs, and EKGs. However, you should seek out emergency care if one has complex health issues related to high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney issues, or a stroke or chest pains, patient’s are asked to visit their local emergency room.

If you don’t know if you should venture to the emergency room or the urgency room, consider your level of pain or discomfort, as well consider the services you may require. Also, if you choose to visit an urgent care facility, know that you don’t need to make an appointment, and you will likely be in and out within an hour. Also, physicians at urgent care facilities are able to prescribe medicine.