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Urgent Care Centers vs Emergency Rooms—Which One to Consider

Did you know that an estimated 27 percent of medical emergencies can now be treated inside urgent care centers or UTCs? This saves patients the time and the energy to wait in long lines in emergency rooms.

It also helps them save money. Surveys say that the average cost of a UTC visit for the three most common illnesses—pharyngitis, middle ear infection, and urinary tract infection—is $155. In contrast, the average cost of a UTI treatment in an emergency facility is $665.

Urgent care centers are suitable alternatives if you are to consider the medical debt that families, which have a lot of emergencies and other critical medical needs, face every year. UTCs are a far better choice if you have minor conditions that need medical attention. These conditions could be flu symptoms, allergic reactions, bites, burns, minor cuts, and broken bones. However, if you have extreme medical conditions, such as stroke, asthma attacks, severe burns, and electrical shock, among others, you should head on to the nearest emergency room. That’s because they have more services and facilities that can treat those conditions.

UTC vs. ER: The Breakdown

If you have a dilemma over where to go, remember this rule of thumb. If it’s non-life threatening, choose a UTC. If it’s the opposite, head on to the nearest emergency facility right away.

People often choose to go to the ER because these facilities are legally obliged to attend to all patients regardless of the critical levels of their emergencies, their capacity to pay, and whether they have HMOs. This puts tremendous pressure on ERs and limits their ability to attend to medical emergencies quickly. If non-life threatening medical problems can be treated outside the emergency rooms, over $18 million can be saved annually.

Urgent Care Centers

These facilities are built to give medical solutions to non-life threatening emergencies. They are specially made to help you save money and get the medical care you need STAT without having to wait for long queues. The very first UTC in the US was created in the 1990s to serve patients who have no access to their primary doctors at night and on weekends.

Like emergency rooms, you can just walk in a UTC and get treated. You don’t need to book an appointment. Generally, a team of nurses, assistant physicians, and medical assistants are on board to give patients medical treatment. They are always lead by a physician who specialized in family medicine, emergency medicine, or internal medicine.

UTCs are open seven days a week until 9:00 p.m. or later. UTCs located in bigger cities are open 24 hours. They can duplicate all the services offered in your regular doctor’s office and emergency facilities, but with two significant exceptions:

  • They don’t keep your medical history
  • They can’t cater to patients who have life-threatening conditions

UTCs have an x-ray machine, phlebotomy, and other equipment needed to treat various, but simple medical conditions. Nearly all the procedures you can have inside a UTC is covered by insurance, cutting down the average cost per patient to $100.

ER Wins But Loses

In the US, over 5,000 emergency rooms are open 24 hours for 365 days. This is the reason that sick people still prefer it over UTCs. ERs are convenient. If you know where a hospital is, that’s where the ER is. With UTC, you have to look for them and remember where they are. They’re not conveniently placed anywhere. The decision to be treated in an emergency room costs America over $3 trillion on healthcare in 2018. It’s also the reason people can’t pay off their debts and the number one cause of bankruptcy.

Bottom Line

Choosing between UTC and the ER depends on your condition. If you have a life-threatening emergency, it is best to go to the nearest ER. For non-life threatening conditions, but urgent nonetheless, UTC can provide you the health care that you need.

If you’re looking for an urgent care center New Jersey, get in touch with us today! We’re happy to help.

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