Imagine. Your doctor’s office is closed for the weekend and you are hit with a sudden illness or a painful injury. The conventional choice has been to head for the hospital emergency room and plan on a long wait for treatment.
But, today, there is a shift away from using hospital emergency rooms for non-life threatening emergencies. Hospital costs are skyrocketing and insurers are passing a bigger portion of these costs on to the patients.
There are a growing number of good alternatives to the ER for those times when you need immediate attention, including:
Urgent Care Centers: Most urgent care are equipped to handle a wide array of non-life threatening health needs, including fevers, coughs, sprains and stitches. Some give you the option of checking in online so you can avoid long delays in crowded waiting rooms. Most urgent care clinics offer extended hours and are open seven days a week, including holidays.
Video visits with a physician: You can skip the waiting room completely by doing a video visit. Video visits provide access to board-certified doctors 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all from the comfort of your home, office or anywhere you have an internet connection. Video visits are most often used for common complaints, such as upper respiratory infections, allergies, flu symptoms and coughs. The physician you chat with online is able to assess your condition and send prescriptions to your pharmacy, with some insurance plans covering 100% of the cost.
24/7 nurse line: Many health insurance plans now have a 24/7 nurse line that you can call for help determining the severity of your symptoms and advice on where to go for care.
In non-emergency situations, it is best to call your doctor’s office first. They may want to see you or suggest their preferred alternatives to the emergency room. Your insurance provider can also help you find a conveniently located, licensed and accredited care setting and determine whether your plan covers the alternative facility’s services.
I want to stress that you should always call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room in any life threatening situation including:
- Chest pains, shortness of breath and signs of heart attacks
- Signs of stroke
- Severe cuts or limb threatening injuries
- Suicidal or homicidal feelings