More than 100 million Americans go to the emergency room every year. While most of us visit the ER only for true emergencies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common reasons people visit the ER include stomach and abdominal pain, chest pain, fever, headache, and back pain. Some of these symptoms (like chest pain) could indicate serious conditions (such as a heart attack). But many do not.
A visit to the emergency room can cost up to five times more than a visit to an urgent-care center. Emergency-room treatment for non-emergency medical conditions is a major contributor to the rising cost of health care.
For many injuries and illnesses, an urgent-care clinic is the more appropriate place to go. Not only will you see trained nurses and doctors, you’ll often be seen more quickly than in the ER. Here is a general guide to indicate when to go to an emergency room and when an urgent-care visit might be a better option.
For those who don’t have a primary care provider, urgent care facilities can be a great resource. If you’ve just moved to a new area and you sprain your ankle, urgent-care services can see you right away. You don’t have to spend time trying to find a provider who is accepting new patients. Plus, most urgent-care facilities are open in the evenings and on weekends. They can even help you refill a prescription.