Emergency Room Services or Urgent Care: How to Choose the Right Emergency Health Services

Nov 26, 2012 -  So it’s noon on a Saturday and you’re suddenly not feeling well. If it were Monday, you might give your family doctor a call, chat with their nurse, and decide what to do from there. But what do you do when your family doctor isn’t an option?

Step one is figuring out the the level of your medical emergency. Emergency room services don’t make a lot of sense for a simple cold or flu. At the same time, you wouldn’t want to walk into a urgent care facility with a heart attack or stroke.

Identifying a true emergency
When trying to decide whether the ER or the Urgent Care Center is the way to go, it’s important to know the key warning signs of a serious illness, which would require services more appropriately provided in an ER. According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, the following are warning signs of a medical emergency:
  • Bleeding that will not stop
  • Significant breathing problems
  • Change in mental status (such as unusual behavior, confusion, or difficulty rousing)
  • Chest pain
  • Choking
  • Coughing up or vomiting blood
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness
  • Feeling of wanting to commit suicide or murder
  • Significant head injury
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Sudden dizziness, weakness, or change in vision
  • Sudden injury due to a motor vehicle accident, burns or smoke inhalation, near-drowning, deep or large wound, etc.
  • Sudden, severe pain anywhere in the body
  • Swallowing a poisonous substance
  • Upper abdominal pain or pressure
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms, head directly to your nearest ER for emergency medical services. If you are unsure or wavering, listen to your body and trust your instincts. Only you know your body.

When to choose urgent care over emergency room services
Once you’ve ruled out a serious medical emergency, the next step is choosing a facility for treatment of urgent but not emergency conditions. Here’s a quick list of the kinds of things that it might make sense to head to an urgent care or walk-in center for:
  • Animal bites
  • Back pain
  • Bumps, cuts, bruises
  • Burning with urination
  • Ear or sinus pain
  • Eye swelling or pain
  • Mild asthma
  • Minor fevers, coughs, sore throats
  • Minor headaches
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Sprains or strains
  • Stitches
The great thing about urgent care facilities is you don’t need appointments, and they usually have co-pays that cost about the same as or a little more than a doctor’s office. So an urgent care center can help you avoid expensive emergency room services for treatment of fevers, broken bones, ear infections and the flu.

“I love my job. I get to help sick patients get treated right away.” Dr. Lina Hwang from the ECHN Urgent Care Center in South Windsor.

Hospital emergency services or urgent care: Why take the time to debate?
There are a couple of reasons to take a few minutes before you head out the door. First is the cost to you. Many urgent care centers have co-pays that are about the same as a doctor’s office, but the visit may be only half the cost of hospital emergency services.

Second is convenience. Urgent care facilties typically have far shorter waiting times. Many offer convenient on-site laboratory work or x-rays. Some also fill prescriptions. The centers stay open later than most doctors’ offices, and some are open on weekends and holidays. So you can get relief in one convenient stop on your schedule.

Lastly, when you choose an urgent care over the ER, you typically come in contact with fewer extremely ill patients and you’re not competing with ambulance patients for the doctor’s time. If you are on the fence about choosing between going to the urgent care or emergency room, reach out and ask for help. Most doctors have an on-call provider who can advise you. Many health plans now have nurse health hotlines or you can always pick up the phone and call the Urgent Care facility and ask if they can see you or if you should go the the ER.

If you live in the South Windsor area and are looking for an urgent care facility, ECHN Urgent Care is right in your neighborhood. Our board-certified physicians and nursing staff provides treatment for non-emergency conditions, offers extended hours, and sees patients on a first-come, first-served basis.


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