When Illness or Injury Strikes: Know Your Emergency and Urgent Care Options

In the event of an emergency medical event or serious illness, do you know where to turn? Most communities have both hospital emergency rooms and urgent care facilities, but these two options serve very different purposes and the last thing you want to do is show up on the wrong doorstep in the event of an injury or serious illness. Both emergency rooms and urgent care facilities can help you in a medical bind; here are some of the best times to use these resources.

Emergency Rooms
Emergency rooms are designated for tending to potentially life-threatening situations. A serious cut that results in significant blood loss, an illness that causes shortness of breath, or a head trauma are all examples of incidents that call for a trip to an emergency room. If your injury is not life threatening, you may have to wait for a long time to be seen by doctors in an emergency room, if they agree to see you at all. Emergency rooms are open 24 hours a day, every day of the year to care for people who are in dire need of medical attention.

Urgent Care
Urgent care facilities have extended hours, so they are open during the evening or weekend after your regular doctor is closed for business. These facilities are not open around the clock and they are not equipped to deal with a serious medical trauma. An urgent care staff will turn you away if you show up with an injury that is beyond their scope of care. The doctors at an urgent care office are a good alternative when your regular doctor can’t see you, but not a substitution for the life saving care that you can receive by going to an emergency room that is set up for triage. You should always know where to find the closest urgent care even if it’s not in your city; for instance, if you live in northeast Texas you should know where the closest urgent care in Dallas, Texas is located.

Health Insurance Implications
The copay requirements in your health insurance policy are often different for emergency rooms than they are for urgent care facilities. If you are admitted into an emergency room, you are likely to owe a copay, which is a one-time fee or a percentage of the visit. Your insurance will pay for the rest of the costs. You may have to meet a deductible first, or it may be waived in instances of an emergency. The insurance company is likely to have a copay requirement for urgent care as well, but it may be lower than emergency treatment costs.
Medical emergencies and illnesses are never a good time. Knowing where your local resources can be found will save you stress and time when you need treatment the most. Find out what your insurance will cover at these facilities now, so you won’t be stuck with unexpected costs after a visit when you need to be recovering from your illness or injury.