When pain is distracting you, and you are unable to function normally, waiting for an appointment with your physician may not be an option. Even if your healthcare provider can offer same-day appointments, immediate care may be necessary to avoid costly sick days and missed pay if you fall ill after business hours.If you are like many, when you need medical care quickly you will look for the nearest emergency room. Visits to the ER are at an all-time high, but this is often an unnecessary visit. Wait times can be excessive, and unless you have a true medical emergency, you can receive adequate care elsewhere. Other options are often cheaper, quicker, and more appropriate for average medical needs.So, what are these other care settings, and how do you determine which is best?Options Beyond ER CareUnless you have a true medical emergency, you will get quicker service and possibly more attention in another setting, such as an urgent care center, walk-in doctor's office, or health clinic. These options often have longer hours, holiday hours, and relatively low wait times. In addition, they often cost about the same as a traditional doctor's visit, unlike the emergency room, which can cost about five times more.• Urgent care center: These clinics can handle problems that need immediate attention, such as sprains or x-rays, but do not require true emergency care.
• Walk-in doctor's office: A standard office setting with no appointment necessary; this is a good option if you need simple attention for colds or asthma quickly.
• Retail health clinic: Walk-in clinics that are located at major pharmacies and retail chains. Great for routine care, such as flu shots and care for colds and minor ailments.
If you have a health plan, they may have a 24/7 line available to help you determine what kind of care you need to receive.Where Should I Go?Of course, the desire to circumvent the emergency room waiting time is foolish if you have an actual emergency. Avoidance of the expensive emergency room should never stop you from seeking the appropriate medical care. But, how can you know when to visit an ER and when to seek other options? Although this is ultimately a personal decision, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind when deciding what care to seek.Visit an Emergency Room if:
• Signs of a heart attack or stroke
• High fever with stiff neck, disorientation, or fainting
• High-impact collisions
• Fall from more than five feet
• Wounds that bleed excessively and/or complete or partial amputations
• Coughing up or vomiting blood
• Head trauma
• Sudden and severe abdominal painChoose an Urgent Care Center for:
• Strains or sprains
• Eye irritation or swelling
• Minor headaches, nausea, vomiting/diarrhea, general malaise
• Minor allergic reactions and asthma attacks
• Ear or sinus pain
• VaccinationsPlan AheadReview this information with your primary care physician and discuss options in your area for urgent medical care. You should also check to see which care options are covered under your healthcare plan.