NORWALK, Conn. -- Urgent care centers are a great alternative to the emergency room for many situations.
While these facilities provide many of the same services, they do not have the same pricing schedules or wait times.
Urgent care centers should be used by patients with flu or cold symptoms, sprains, rashes, certain types of infections, STDs, and after-hours care. Many urgent care centers are a convenient option to get kids sports physicals or vaccinations.
Emergency room visits should be made for more severe conditions, such as a major trauma or accident, loss of consciousness, heart attack or chest pain and uncontrollable bleeding.
Trips to urgent care centers cost far less than emergency room visits. The Annals of Internal Medicine study found that the average cost of an urgent care visit for three common illnesses — middle ear infection, pharyngitis and urinary tract infection — was $155. Other estimates place the average urgent care visit at anywhere from $71 to $125. The bottom line is that an urgent care visit is substantially cheaper than an emergency room visit.
Emergency rooms are also usually much busier than urgent care facilities. The average emergency room has a wait time of 2.4 hours, whereas urgent care centers usually see walk-in patients within 20-45 minutes.
In most cases, the urgent care experience is quicker and more efficient since the range of services is limited to non-life threatening situations.
Emergency room patients can expect to wait hours in their rooms if a more traumatic case enters the ER. In urgent care centers, patients rarely experience this type of issue, as major traumas are directed to ERs.
Emergency rooms and urgent care centers are staffed with skilled and compassionate health care providers.
In most cases both facilities will have doctors and nurses available. Occasionally an urgent care center will have physician assistant or nurse practitioner in lieu of an MD, so it is important to ask in order to get the care you are expecting.
In most cases, insurance will cover either an urgent care center or an emergency room. Exceptions include unnecessary visits and out-of-network facilities. However, patients should be aware that co-pays and co-insurance costs are typically much higher at an ER compared to an urgent care facility.
Many urgent care centers offer x-rays and lab capabilities, just like emergency rooms. Most urgent care centers will communicate a diagnosis or x-ray to a patient’s primary care physician if necessary. Typically, a patient will have to go to the ER for an MRI or CAT scans.
To learn more, click here to visit the Doctors Express Urgent Care website.