The debate of going to the emergency room versus an urgent care center is worth having for anyone concerned about medical expenses, especially at the start of a new year. For those with medical insurance, this means a new deductible. Until the deductible is met, the majority of a medical bill is directly passed to the patient. In addition, with rising premium costs, many people are choosing high-deductible plans (known as “catastrophic”) or self-pay options. This trend emphasizes the importance of knowing the best lowest cost option.
For most conditions – fever, flu symptoms, allergic reactions, lacerations, burns, animal bites, broken bones – urgent care centers are far better for time and cost.
An extreme medical condition – stroke, heart attack, severe burns, electrical shock – make the resources and services available at a hospital emergency room a better choice.
The cost difference alone should be enough to encourage people to use urgent care. The average urgent care visit ranges from $50 to $150, depending on the patient’s co-pay/insurance and level of treatment, according to Dr. Franz Ritucci, President of the American Academy of Urgent Care Medicine.
Average emergency room costs vary wildly based on treatment, but a 2016 National Institute of Health study put the median cost at $1,633. In addition, you won’t know the amount of your ER bill for several weeks, whereas good urgent cares can tell you exactly the cost at the time of your visit.
Then, there is the time factor. Patients at urgent care centers are seen on a first-come, first-serve basis and average less than 45 minutes from arrival until departure.
Emergency rooms treat patients based on the severity of condition. Patients with life-threatening injuries go first. The average ER time from arrival to departure is 3 hours, 15 minutes.
The following estimated costs were calculated for nine of the most common reasons people visit the ER. They were determined using 2015 data from approximately 4,000 medical clinics and hospitals across four Midwestern states.
|Condition||Emergency Room Cost||Urgent Care Cost|
|Upper Respiratory Infection||$486||$111|
|Urinary Tract Infection||$665||$112|
The Annals of Internal Medicine found that the average cost of an urgent care visit for three common illnesses — middle ear infection, pharyngitis, and urinary tract infection — was $155. The bottom line is that an urgent care visit is substantially cheaper than an emergency room visit.
Urgent care centers are a valid bridge between your primary care physician and emergency room services. In the 1990’s, they originated to serve the population who said they have no access to their primary care doctor at night or on weekends. Since then, they have evolved to be a valid low cost, convenient option for all patients.
There is no appointment necessary and they are open 7 days a week. Urgent Care clinics are staffed primarily by family medicine and emergency room providers and can duplicate nearly all the services offered in the traditional doctor’s office or emergency room. Urgent care centers have x-ray machines, lab testing, and supplies needed for handling fractures and skin injuries.
The real question that should be answered when deciding between urgent care centers and emergency rooms is: “Why am I going?” If the answer is: “Because I have life-threatening injuries or symptoms,” then the choice is simple: Go to an emergency room.
Otherwise, an urgent care center should do.
Transparent pricing: prices are posted on the website and are openly discussed during your visit. There is no guessing.
Average visit length: 30 minutes
Budget pricing: best prices in town for office visits, X-rays, and procedures. Where else can you get an X-ray for $50?
Family Choice Urgent Care is conveniently open 364 days per year. Now with an in-house pharmacy to provide you a convenient one-stop shop. For additional information, call 541-213-2133 or visit www.familychoiceuc.com