Is it REALLY an emergency? If so, go to the ER. If not, consider other…
E.R. or Not? How to be a Savvy Healthcare Consumer
When it’s 7 p.m. on a Friday evening and you don’t think you can wait through the weekend to see your doctor, where should you go for treatment? If you guessed the emergency department, think again.
The emergency department is one of the most expensive places to seek non-emergent healthcare. Ideally, patients should try to be seen by their primary care physician first, but illnesses don’t always strike during normal office hours. Learn about the differences between medical clinics, urgent care centers, and emergency departments before you need care, so you know where to go when you need it. Your physical and financial health will benefit.
In addition to your primary care office, you have four basic options for care:
1. Walk-in clinics, such as Carson Tahoe Clinics at Walmart, are used for everyday medicine and are an excellent option that is easy on the pocketbook. Everyday medicine includes minor abrasions, cough and congestion, earaches, and sinus infections. Your kids can also have a sports physical. The benefit of clinics such as these is that wait times are minimal and the cost is low.
2. Urgent care clinics, such as Carson Tahoe Urgent Care, are equipped to manage lacerations, sprains, infections, and non-life-threatening emergencies. More than one location is available to serve your needs.
3. Emergent care centers treat similar ailments to urgent care clinics, but they also have the expertise to treat more complicated matters and often onsite radiology equipment for diagnostic issues and treatment for broken bones.
4. Emergency departments are designed to handle true medical emergencies. Because they provide critical care, the cost associated with an emergency department visit is often three to four times higher than the costs incurred at lower care levels. “Those who are recently insured through the Affordable Care Act should know there are resources available to them beyond the emergency department,” says Mina Fiddyment, Health Navigator with Carson Tahoe Health. “With insurance coverage, healthcare consumers can establish a relationship with a primary care physician and receive care at much lower costs by choosing a retail medical clinic or urgent care center for minor health concerns when their primary care physician is unavailable. When consumers access an inappropriate level of care, it costs them and the hospital more, thus inadvertently increasing the cost of healthcare.”
The bottom line is that depending on the severity and nature of an illness or injury, there is an appropriate level of care to meet your health and financial needs. It is best to establish care with a primary care physician, but if a need arises, you should know where to go.