Is Urgent Care More Affordable Than Going to the ER?

Urgent care centers are springing up all over the country and are becoming an important part of our healthcare system. Whereas we were once constrained to normal business hours at a family doctor's office or forced to go to the ER, if we got sick after hours, with the advent of urgent care centers, there is another option. While there are many great reasons to consider visiting an urgent care instead of the ER, one of the most powerful reasons is to save money. Simply put, for non-emergency situations, urgent care centers offer competitive pricing that emergency rooms simply can't compete with. Read on to learn more about urgent care centers and there many benefits!

How Do Urgent Care Facilities and Emergency Rooms Differ?

Urgent care centers and emergency rooms differ in terms of their services, staff, and availability. Urgent care centers offer comprehensive medical services for both minor and major medical conditions, such as vaccinations, physicals, X-rays, lab work, diagnostics, treatment of seasonal allergies, illnesses, and infections, as well as minor surgeries and stitches. They are staffed with physicians and other healthcare professionals who specialize in urgent care medicine. These facilities are typically open seven days a week, with flexible hours and extended hours on nights and weekends, effectively offering competitive hours with an ER. Due to this, urgent care centers are able to offer fast and convenient care for non-emergency situations, so you can avoid the ER unless it is a true emergency.

On the other hand, emergency rooms are used to treat serious medical conditions that require immediate attention such as heart attacks, strokes, or other severe traumas. ERs are equipped to provide life-saving treatments 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They are staffed with a team of doctors, nurses and technicians who are ready to deal with any medical emergency that comes their way. ER’s remain open constantly, day and night, no matter what day of the year it is setting them apart as having the greatest availability. However, you can expect to wait much longer at the ER than an urgent care facility for similar treatment. Ultimately, ER's offer care, every hour of every day, so when a true emergency occurs, you can receive the help you need.

What Are the Costs Associated With Visiting An Urgent Care Center?

The cost of going to an urgent care center is much lower than going to the ER. The price for a visit at an urgent care facility can range from $50 – $200 depending on the services provided. On the other hand, the average cost of a trip to the ER can range from $150 – $3,000 depending on the severity of your condition. Thus, if you are without health insurance, it will be much more affordable and feasible to pay for services at an urgent care then going to an ER and the best part is you will still receive quality medical care.

Do Urgent Care Centers Accept Insurance?

Yes, most urgent care centers accept insurance. As a matter of fact, the majority of insurance companies have started to offer lower co-pays for urgent care visits than they do for ER visits, due to the lower costs associated with receiving medical care at these facilities. Thus, if you have insurance, you can save even more money by visiting an urgent care over the ER for any non-emergency medical care you need.

The Benefits of Visiting an Urgent Care Center

Visiting an urgent care center is beneficial for a variety of reasons. Aside from being more affordable than the ER, these facilities offer a number of other attractive advantages such as:

  • Convenience and Flexibility – Most urgent care centers are open seven days a week with flexible hours and extended hours on nights and weekends. This makes it much easier to get the care you need when you need it, since you can schedule an appointment or simply walk-in even if it is after hours.
  • Quality Care – Urgent care centers are staffed with physicians and other healthcare professionals who specialize in urgent care medicine and provide quality medical care for both minor and major medical conditions. Urgent care offers the same quality of care you would receive from a family doctor or the ER for non-emergency illnesses/injuries, only with increased convenience and affordability.
  • Quick Diagnosis – Urgent care centers are equipped with advanced diagnostics and lab work, so they can quickly diagnose any medical condition you may have and get you the treatment you need. Instead of going to the Dr. just to have them send you over to the hospital for an X-ray or bloodwork, you can get everything you need all in one place. That way when you are suffering, with an illness or injury, you can get home to rest more quickly.
  • Expedited Wait Times – Since urgent care centers are not as crowded or busy as the ER, you can usually expect to be seen much faster than if you went to the ER. Moreover, since most urgent care centers now offer appointment scheduling, you can hold you spot and rest at home, until it is time to arrive to be seen. This helps you avoid sitting in a waiting room, unnecessarily, when you are feeling bad or in pain.

With so many great benefits for choosing urgent care over the ER, be sure to visit a local center next time you experience a non-life-threatening illness or injury.

Are There Any Situations When It Is Necessary to Choose the ER Over Urgent Care?

While urgent care will cover most of your medical needs, there are certain situations when the ER is the better choice. For example, if you are experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, extreme bleeding, internal bleeding, miscarriage, an allergic reaction, going into labor, serious head trauma, or are experiencing a sudden onset of numbness and/or weakness, go straight to the ER for life saving treatments. Simply put, if the situation is a true emergency, the ER is the best place to be, since they have the medical staff, equipment, and treatment protocols to get you the necessary medical interventions needed to save your life. However, if you have an illness or injury that is not life-threatening, choosing urgent care is always the best option due to its many great benefits as discussed above. Not to mention, it keeps the ERs less crowded so those who truly need emergency care can be seen more quickly.

After learning more about urgent care centers and their cost-effective treatments, you can now make an informed decision as to which one is right for you. Urgent care is the more affordable option and offers many advantages; however, it is important to know when the ER should be chosen over urgent care in order to ensure you receive the care you need.

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