Nowadays, with so many options to choose from when it comes to healthcare, how do we decide which is the right one? Here are some tips to help you decide.
Choosing the Urgent Care
Some key factors to keep in mind when selecting an urgent care are the level of service provided, how convenient it is to your location, and if the urgent care will be able to take your insurance. It is important to choose your neighborhood urgent care ahead of time to be able to have someone in mind already when the time comes.
When an emergency happens, you won't have time to think about where to go, especially if you are operating under high levels of pain. If you don't want to end up in one of those dimly lit surgical waiting rooms with a 2 hour wait, I would suggest doing some research ahead of time.
Primary Care Doctor, Emergency Room, or Urgent Care?
This can be a tough decision, primarily if there is a time constraint to your decision making. Usually primary care doctors will have appointments booked weeks out, so if it is something you can't wait for, one of the other two options would have to work. If there is time flexibility involved, primary care doctors will often have lower co-pays involved and lower total costs.
The emergency room should be used only in the rare cases where time efficiency overcomes the need for cost savings. This would involve broken bones, heavy bleeding, uncontrollable wheezing or coughing, trouble breathing, or any other pressing conditions.
For any other conditions, going to an urgent care would make sense if you don't have too much time, and the condition is minor. Some common reasons to visit an urgent care would be minor scrapes, cuts or burns, a break that would not need reset, the flu, or any manner of illnesses.
To find out if an urgent care accepts your insurance, calling ahead of time is a good way to find out. If your insurance is in their network, then there won't be inordinate billing. If you are out of the network, then the whole bill may be assigned to you instead of the insurance agency. Some urgent cares will bill you for the whole bill, while others will choose to not bill even if you are out of the network. It all varies from one urgent care to the next, so just make sure to ask so there aren't negative repercussions later on.
Should I make an appointment?
Depending on the urgent care, they may either operate under an appointment basis, or a walk-in only basis. Normally, making an appointment will save you 2x as much time at an appointment based urgent care. However, at a walk-in urgent care, wait times can vary widely from 15 minutes up to 2 hours. Calling ahead to gauge the wait time could be a good determiner in deciding which urgent care to visit at a particular time.
Who is on site?
Often, an urgent care will have several staff members in the office for billing requirements, patient screenings, and answering calls. The other employees will consist of nurse practitioners, physician's assistants, or registered nurses. Nurse practitioners may prescribe medications and give a diagnosis, where a registered nurse will not be able to take these liberties. On rare occasions, there will be an on-site physician or doctor who can provide a higher level of educated service.
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