When to Choose Either Urgent Care or Emergency Care Services

Your health is one of, if not the, most important part of your life to manage.

Deciding which services to use, and what facilities are the most appropriate for your healthcare needs, can be extremely stressful. You’ll likely ask yourself if your medical conditions require urgent care services or emergency care.

The basic rule of thumb is that urgent care is ideal for preventive care and related services while emergency care should be used if your health status is critical or life-threatening. Many insurance carriers and organizations like the BlueCross BlueShield Association provide resources to help members decide when to either an urgent care center or ER.

At AFC Worcester, we have all the need-to-know information about when it is appropriate to use fast and convenient urgent care services or when you need life-saving emergency care ASAP.

What is preventive care and what are some common preventive care services?

By definition, preventive care is the range of services and procedures to prevent illnesses, combat diseases, and maintain overall health.

The most common forms of preventive care include flu shots, child and adult vaccinations, biometric screenings for blood pressure and cholesterol, routine physicals, mental health screenings, and STD treatments.

Preventive care services are key to maintaining a cost-effective healthcare routine that produces effective healthcare outcomes.

Under federal law, health insurance carriers are required to cover 100 percent of preventive care services for their beneficiaries under their provider networks. Nationally-recognized insurance groups including Cigna, Aetna, BlueCross BlueShield, and UnitedHealthcare offer extensive access to urgent care centers that provide preventive care.

When should you use emergency care and the ER?

Patients should seek immediate emergency care at an emergency room (ER) if they experience an injury, condition, or health status that could result in death.

For example, a patient with a wound that won’t stop bleeding, respiratory irritation and vomiting with visible blood, poisoning, signs of a stroke, heart attack, or a sudden loss of consciousness should go to the ER as soon as possible.  

A typical ER can provide patients with advanced surgical care and services that address immediate healthcare needs.

Why is it important to know when to choose urgent care or emergency care?

Simply put, using an urgent care center over an ER when appropriate may likely save you a significant amount on care costs. According to the Health Care Cost Institute, the average price of an emergency room visit increased by 34 percent between 2012 and 2016 to $1,917 per visit.

In addition, an ER patient has a strong likelihood of experiencing long waits and delays because of overutilization. A ProPublica tracker of Massachusetts hospital wait times found that patients can wait up to an hour and eleven minutes in the ER depending upon the facility, and just as long to receive pain medications for broken bones.

For minor injuries and ailments, x-rays, flu shots, vaccinations, and other preventive services, patients should call an urgent care center to save time, reduce care costs, and maintain their most valuable asset: health.