Knowing when to go to the emergency room vs an urgent care clinic can be tricky business. For the average person, it is almost impossible to self-diagnose something like chest pain--it could be a heart attack, heart burn, a pulmonary embolism, etc. Years ago, if you assumed it was a heart attack and went to the ER, the visit was usually covered by insurance, even if you were wrong. Now, more and more, insurance providers are only covering ER visits that are truly necessary. If it turns out the pain was from heart burn, you could be stuck flipping the bill for all of the highly-trained 24/7 staff.
On the other hand, you don't want to go to an urgent care clinic just to be told your condition is severe and you have to go to the ER. And you don't want to have to wait for days or weeks to see your primary care provider if you have that much discomfort or pain.
There are a number of differences between urgent care and emergency care that can help you choose where to go:
- emergency care is open 24/7, while urgent care usually offers weekend and evening hours
- urgent care is first come, first serve (which, at times, could mean a long wait), and emergency care focuses on treating whoever has the greatest need
- urgent care generally does not have all of the equipment needed for every test, and the ER is expensive because it does
There is no perfect solution for everyone's needs, which is why primary care, urgent care, and emergency care all exist and work together. Each addresses a different degree of illness or injury. On this episode of the Perry Health Pulse, Dr. Neal Edelson (medical director of Perry's Emergency Department) and Cory Kramer, APRN (nurse practitioner of Perry Memorial Prompt Care) share their insights and expertise to help you Know Where to Go.