When you are sick or in pain, it can be hard to make good health care decisions. You just want to feel better as soon as possible.
That’s why understanding the pros and cons of your options today can help you make better choices when it counts.
Your regular doctor’s office is the best place to start when you aren’t well. They know you and your health history best. When you call them about an illness or injury, they can help you choose the tests and treatments that are best tailored to your needs.
But what if you need help at a time that your doctor’s office is closed?
If your problem is not life threatening, you might save time and money by going to an urgent care clinic instead of the emergency department (ED).
Urgent care clinics (also known as convenient care) are designed to see you on the same day that you make the appointment. They have X-ray and lab services like a hospital, but often without the long wait time or expense of going to the ED. Local data shows that at least 25 percent of people who go to the emergency department could be treated faster at a clinic.
For example, you might go to an urgent care if you have:
- Cold/ flu symptoms
- A bite or sting
- Minor burns
- A cut needing stitches
- Joint or muscle pain
- A strain or sprain
- Suspected broken bones (no visible bone)
- A urinary tract infection
Of course, some conditions really are emergencies. The ED is the best place for treating severe and life-threatening conditions.
They offer the widest range of services for emergency after-hours care, including diagnostic tests, specialists and the option to be admitted to the hospital for longer-term treatment.
They’re also open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But emergency care is also the most expensive type of care.
Emergency conditions include:
- Suspected appendicitis
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Bleeding that won’t stop
- Compound fractures (broken bones you can see through the skin)
- Head and neck trauma
- Infants with fever
- Sudden behavioral changes (can be a sign of brain injury)
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
Keep in mind that even if your condition is on the emergency list, you may not be seen right away. The most severely ill or injured patients are always seen first.
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