There’s a reason why there are over eight thousand urgent care facilities found across the country. These facilities are a vital resource for people who need to see a medical professional quickly.
Sadly, many people are still confused about when they should choose to go to an urgent care facility and when they should go to an emergency room. Even though these two facilities see people as soon as possible they have drastically different purposes.
If you want to learn more about the difference between these two healthcare locations, then you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll go over the difference as well as some factors to look for when choosing an urgent care facility. Let’s get started!
When You Should Go to an Urgent Care Facility
Urgent care is reserved for conditions that you would normally see your primary care physician, but you can’t see them quickly enough. It’s also ideal if you don’t have a primary care physician.
These are walk-in clinics that can see you at any point during their operating hours. However, keep in mind that they aren’t open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
You should go to urgent care if your condition requires immediate attention, but it’s not an emergency. Here are some types of conditions that might warrant a trip to an urgent care facility:
- Ear infections
- Sore throats
- Sinus pain
- Cold and flu
- Sore throat
- Non-life threatening COVID symptoms
When You Should Go to an Emergency Room
As the name suggests, an emergency room should be reserved for emergencies only. The difference between an emergency room and urgent care facility is that they’re staffed with professionals twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
As such, it’s a good option if you experience a health crisis in the middle of the night. This type of healthcare facility should be used by people experiencing a life or limb-threatening symptoms.
It should also be reserved for people who need medical attention immediately. What symptoms justify a visit to the emergency room? Here are a few:
- Broken bones
- Wounds that are open and bleeding
- Mental health crisis
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Pain in your abdomen
- Slurred speech (unrelated to drinking)
- High blood sugar levels
- Serious burns
- Foreign objects lodged in your body
- Skin infections
- Severed limbs
- Severe headaches
If you can get someone to drive you to the emergency room, then have them do so. Otherwise, you can call 911 and get an ambulance to pick you up. Make sure to never drive yourself if you’re suffering from a condition that’s impairing your driving abilities.
What Factors Should You Look For in an Urgent Care Facility?
At this point, you should know whether you to go to an urgent care facility or the emergency room. However, before you make the trip over, it’s still important to consider certain factors.
In this section, we’ll go over some of the things you should think about before selecting the right urgent care facility.
The first thing you should check is whether or not the urgent care facility accepts your health insurance plan. The good news is that most insurance policies do cover urgent care trips. However, the amount that you co-pay might be more than a traditional doctor visit.
When looking for an urgent care facility try and find one that’s in-network. This means that your insurance company has negotiated with the facility to provide you with a lower rate when you visit.
Try to avoid urgent cares that don’t accept your insurance. If you go to one of these places and receive service, then it’s easy for you to be left with a heft medical bill at the end of your visit.
How can you find out whether or not urgent care will accept your health insurance? Call ahead and check. A receptionist should be able to answer most of your insurance-related questions.
Urgent care facilities typically have a variety of providers, like nurse practitioners, physicians, and lab technicians. In some cases, it doesn’t matter what type of providers can be found at the location. However, in other cases it does.
For example, if you have kids that you’re taking to the urgent care, then you should make sure that they have a pediatrician on staff. Some urgent care facilities only cater to adults. As such, it’s important to ask and find out.
Similarly, if you have a possible broken bone, then you should make sure that they have x-ray resources. Luckily, at places like MedNow Urgent Care, we can take x-rays and a variety of other types of lab tests. So, call ahead and make sure that they have the resources that you might need for your visit.
Hours and Proximity
Urgent care facilities aren’t open twenty-four hours. As such, you should make sure that they’re operational when you need them. Facilities that are closed on the weekend, or holidays aren’t a good option for someone who needs help now.
Similarly, you should make sure that the facility is relatively close to you. If you can avoid it, then don’t drive more than forty-five minutes to get to a facility. However, if you live in rural areas, then this might be your only option. Still, you should double-check before making that long of a drive.
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We hope this article helped you decide when you should choose an urgent care facility. As you can see, urgent care should be saved for pressing matters that aren’t immediately life-threatening or painful.
However, if you aren’t sure, then it’s always best to err on the side of caution and go with an emergency room. Just keep in mind that it will likely be more busy and expensive to do so.
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