Reclaim your health with us! This article discusses managing your medical budget and covers:
- How to choose the right level of care when you feel unwell
- 5 healthcare scenarios that are better suited for Urgent Care
- How to create an emergency plan before you need it
- The importance of preserving emergency room healthcare workers
- Why it’s important to skip the emergency room when you can
Choosing the right level of care: Is this an emergency?
When you or someone you care for is quite sick or experiencing a serious health issue, it’s natural to want to rush to the emergency room to get immediate care. But not all unexpected health issues are emergencies, and many of them can be treated just as effectively, and often faster, at an urgent care. Urgent care can be an effective and cost saving source of healthcare for many of the most common health concerns and scenarios
Urgent care can be an effective and cost saving source of healthcare for many of the most common health concerns and scenarios.
Before you rush to the emergency room, take the time to understand the 5 instances in which it actually makes more sense, both from a medical and financial perspective, to go to an urgent care instead.
Easy to Reference List of Urgent Care-Appropriate Conditions:
1. Ear infections: Ear infections can cause a tremendous amount of discomfort and pain, and can impact other aspects of your health such as balance. These cases are typically straightforward and can be diagnosed and addressed with an effective care plan, including any necessary prescriptions, from an urgent care.
2. Small wounds: Typically when an injury looks deep enough to require stitches or sutures, the instinct is often to head to the emergency room in order to get immediate attention. However, for stitches and sutures, your local urgent care has the equipment and expertise on hand to address these types of injuries - and quickly. You may actually wait less time at an urgent care when dealing with these types of wounds.
3. Sprains and similar injuries: These types of injuries require medical attention, but the care does not need to be provided in an emergency room. Your primary care physician or an urgent care will have the medical supplies and expertise to treat any sprains, strains, or fractures. Rest assured that if the injury is assessed as more complicated or serious than the healthcare provider originally diagnosed at the beginning of the visit, he or she can always send you to an emergency room.
4. Rashes and mild allergies: Rashes and allergic reactions can be quickly addressed by an urgent care healthcare provider and typically do not require the attention of an emergency room. Be sure to note whether the affected person (whether it’s you or someone else) is having trouble breathing or has swelling of the tongue or throat, as this can indicate a more serious reaction which could be life-threatening and require an ER visit.
5. Routine pediatric illnesses: Any time a young child is ill, it can be worrisome and stressful, but most of the time these pediatric illnesses can be treated effectively at an urgent care.
This can include ear infections, sore throat, pink eye, or flu symptoms such as cough and fever. If the child’s condition worsens over the course of the visit to the urgent care, the healthcare provider will recommend that you visit the emergency room for complete care.
Quickly Ask a Healthcare Provider in Your Network
If your healthcare concern is difficult to categorize or falls outside of this list, and you’re not sure if it’s an emergency, consult with the healthcare experts at your fingertips before heading to the emergency room, to get an informed opinion about where you could receive the best care.
1. Call your primary care physician’s on-call line: If he or she is not available after-hours, a physician partner or assistant will be available. This person will call you, review your symptoms, and may even have access to your medical records remotely. The on-call provider can advise you how to proceed with care, including whether you should go to the emergency room.
2. Nurse call lines: Nurse call lines are available 24/7, and can be a great resource. Experienced nurses evaluate your symptoms by asking you a series of questions, and will then direct you to your physician, or a type of immediate care. Some insurance plans incentivize using nurse call lines by reducing copays when the nurse is called first.
3. Telehealth: Most insurance plans now cover tele-doc or tele-nurse visits! You can set up a
visit quickly, and using an app on your phone, tablet, or computer, you can talk to a provider about your condition. These visits are usually very inexpensive, and the provider can always refer you to urgent or emergency care if needed.
More Reasons to Skip the ER When You Can
The wait times in emergency rooms can be lengthy. Even though all patients who walk into an emergency room believe that they are experiencing a health emergency that requires immediate attention, healthcare resources are limited and patients are seen based on the calculated urgency in relation to all the potential patients who are waiting for care. In other words, the amount of time you wait varies depending on who else is waiting to be seen at that time and the severity of their emergency. The healthcare workers are diligent about providing care to the most critical patients and they are constantly reassessing this prioritized list.
If you aren’t sure you need emergency care, it’s important to seek a different level of healthcare because simply by being there, you are taking the time and attention of emergency healthcare providers for your case--and away from other cases. By choosing the right resource for your medical care, you help reserve medical staff and emergency department beds for those that are truly in life-threatening situations. Most healthcare systems offer same-day appointments or urgent care clinics which can handle most routine conditions. Furthermore, you could wait a matter of minutes to be seen by a healthcare provider in person at an Urgent Care facility or online through a telehealth app.
Remember, there are certainly times when going to the emergency room is the only decision you should consider. True emergencies include chest pain, stroke or other neurological changes; uncontrolled bleeding; an inability to breathe, and any mental health situation that is escalating quickly and could cause you to harm yourself or someone else near you.