Choosing Between a Doctor’s Office or a Hospital

When you’re sick, where do you go? Do you wait for a doctors appointment, or do you hoof it to the Emergency Room? You might feel like going to the ER, but if your issue isn’t a true emergency, you’ll end up creating a bottleneck for those who have real medical emergencies. Your doctor may not be able to get you an appointment right away, so what do you do? This is where urgent care comes in.

Doctor’s Office vs. Urgent Care vs Emergency Room

It can be difficult deciding which level of care is necessary for your particular ailment. created this helpful chart

Where to obtain medical care – Quick decision guide

Service Provider Types of Services When to Go Cost Who You’ll See Insurance to Use
Doctor’s Office Diagnostics, Prescriptions, Preventive Care, Illness Treatment, Disease Management Referrals Non-acute symptoms, managing existing conditions, preventive care $$ MD (General Practitioner) Major Medical

Short-Term Medical

Alternative: Telemedicine

Walk-In Clinic Diagnostics, Prescriptions, Preventive Care Non acute symptoms of common illnesses or skin conditions, screenings, vaccinations $ Nurse Practitioner, Physician’s Assistant Major Medical

Short-Term Medical

Alternative: Telemedicine

Urgent Care Diagnostics, Prescriptions, Minor Injury Treatment, Illness Treatment Non life-threatening conditions that need to be assessed the same day $$$ Nurse Practitioner, Physician’s Assistant Major Medical

Hospital Insurance

Alternative: Telemedicine

Emergency Room Anything relating to triage/diagnosis + stabilization of a serious or critical injury or illness Life threatening, sudden-onset pain, acute injuries $$$$ ER MD, trauma surgeon, Paramedic Major Medical

Short Term Medical Hospital Insurance

Insurance Bundle

In 2015, some 139.9 million folks paid a visit to the ER. It turns out that some of them could have, and should have, gone to urgent care instead. Emergency room visit will result in the greatest cost. When you do get sick, or have an emergency, the best place to start is with your doctor’s office.

If your doctor is not available, the next step would be to try your local urgent care center. These facilities can provide basic medical care and attend to pressing issues that, while serious, do not merit going to the emergency room. They can treat these conditions after hours and on weekends when your doctor might not otherwise be available. Urgent care centers are staffed with doctors and nurses who are fully licensed and capable of treating you.

If you’re worried about the type of care you’ll receive at an urgent care site, don’t. Credentialing specialists work hard to ensure the facility stays in compliance. They can be found at every hospital and medical facility, ensuring that the site is delivering the proper care and following all necessary procedures and laws.

Urgent care should not be confused with walk-in clinics, which are in place to handle diagnostics, screenings and vaccinations, or to perform a physical.

If you or a loved one have a life-threatening illness or injury, the clear answer would be to visit the emergency room. If you are unsure if the symptoms are serious enough for the ER, call an ambulance.

It can be challenging deciding where to go when you’re sick. Use the chart above as a go-to guide to make the right decision for your healthcare and receive the care you need when you need it.

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