Almost every person will get sick or injured at some point in their lives. In fact, nearly 20 percent of all Americans visit an ER each year. But when they get sick, there are several options for health care. For routine health care, many go to a primary care physician, but that requires making an appointment and trying to fit it into a busy work schedule.
You can go to the emergency room at a hospital, but if your situation is not life-threatening, you might consider that a potentially long wait is in store for you at the ER – and it could cost much more out-of-pocket, as doctors and the ER often bill patients separately. But always keep in mind that your life matters more than cost – so when faced with a high-risk malady, the ER is where you want to go.
You can also choose to visit an urgent care clinic, which doesn’t require an appointment, costs about the same as a doctor’s office visit, and has some ER-like functions. So, how do you know which place to visit when you’re faced with a health problem?
Primary Care Physician
Having a primary care physician means a patient can develop a working relationship with a single doctor who will order tests, make diagnoses, administer treatments, and provide referrals to specialists. As necessary as these services are, a visit to your PCP may not be convenient when you’re faced with an acute medical problem.
Doctor appointments usually happen during work hours and could take a few days or longer to fit into the doctor’s office schedule, especially if you are a new patient. Additionally, a PCP will usually schedule a follow-up visit – which means taking additional time off work when it might not be necessary.
The Emergency Room
A hospital’s emergency room is by far the most capable place for the most life-threatening situations – and if you are suffering symptoms indicative of a problem with your vital organs or functions, including heart, brain, blood, or lungs – or a severe injury or infection – you should only go to a hospital’s ER.
Sometimes illness happens during the night or on weekends, when other options may not be available – in this case, you can’t beat the convenience of an ER. But the thought of waiting for what could be hours could prompt some to wait until morning, when an urgent care clinic or doctor’s office is open. People without health insurance often go to the emergency room for treatment, making the wait potentially even longer.
An ER can also be crowded with people suffering from a variety of illnesses, so it’s not always the most desirable atmosphere to be. As for your bill, the total cost will normally be much higher for ER services. A recent study found that one-third of all patients treated in the ER could have gone to an urgent care clinic.
Urgent Care Clinic
Even though no appointment is necessary, an urgent care clinic eliminates long wait times – as patients are typically seen within a half hour of arriving because life-threatening injuries and ambulances go to a hospital ER instead.
The cost of urgent care services is much lower than an ER, and about the same as a PCP’s office. Urgent care hours are extremely convenient, being open after work and on weekends.
Urgent care clinics also are well-equipped to treat a wide range of maladies – from pinkeye to fractured bones to stitches. Most feature some diagnostic imaging and lab testing capabilities, so a simple condition can often be treated in a single visit. Some urgent care clinics also offer an on-location pharmacy to fill prescriptions.
It must always be kept in mind that an urgent care clinic does not have the same life-saving diagnostic and treatment equipment that a hospital ER does. For example, CT scans are done at an ER – and certain fatal conditions like blood clots cannot be diagnosed with simple X-rays at an urgent care clinic. So if you have high-risk, life-threatening symptoms, you should always seek out an ER first.
Expert Urgent Care in Pennsylvania
If you have a medical situation that requires prompt treatment but is not life-threatening, visit the Patient Care Now Urgent Care clinic in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania. You can secure your spot in advance, or call us at (267) 202-6433 for more information