When you need urgent care for a medical reason, where do you go? You could go to the hospital's emergency room, but you could also go to an urgent care clinic. Which should you choose? Well, there are some big differences between the two that might help you determine which way to go, as well as some questions to ask yourself when making that choice.
Walking, Talking, and Not Bleeding Out
First and foremost, can you walk, talk, and not bleed everywhere you move? If the answer is "yes," then you can go to an urgent care clinic instead of an emergency room. Emergency rooms should only be for those who have life-threatening issues or for women in labor. If you only have a fever, a sore throat, a swollen ankle, etc., you can go to an urgent care clinic.
Most urgent care clinics are not open past certain hours of the day. If you think your situation at 3am is so urgent that it cannot wait for the clinic to open, then go to the emergency room. Otherwise, most urgent care clinics open their doors somewhere between six and nine in the morning. It would be advisable for you to wait, if you can, since urgent care clinics will only charge you a fraction of what the hospital's E.R. will.
Insurance or No Insurance
Families are required to have health insurance now, but not everyone can afford to pay for it. At the hospital, they still have to treat serious wounds and traumas, but without insurance you are going to be responsible for the whole bill. If you went to a clinic for anything that a clinic can treat, you can work out a payment plan or a sliding scale for fees from the medical staff, which often ends up being cheaper than insurance for a family of four. The co-pays and fees in a clinic are always less than what hospitals charge.
Priority vs. in Order of Appearance
Urgent care clinics operate more like doctor's offices. You show up with a complaint, fill out some forms, and wait your turn to be called. In a hospital emergency room, it is more like combat triage. Treat the worst ones first and everyone else when there is time. If you are lucky, it might be a slow day or night when you go into the E.R., but if a car accident or gun shot comes in while you are waiting, you will wait longer to see a doctor. In urgent care, you are guaranteed to see a medical professional within an hour or less.
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