When to Use Urgent Care: A Guide for Patients

When you're feeling under the weather, it can be difficult to decide whether to go to your primary care provider, an urgent care clinic, or the emergency room. Urgent care is the middle ground between your primary care provider and the Emergency Department, and is a great option for minor illnesses or injuries that can't wait until tomorrow. In addition, it's a good option if you have illnesses or injuries with no other symptoms, or if you have no other underlying health conditions. However, if your condition is accompanied by a high fever (104°F or higher), if you have a history of cancer, or are taking immunosuppressive medications, it is important to have you examined in the emergency department.

The law says it's an emergency if you reasonably believe it's an emergency. It's an emergency if waiting to get medical care can be dangerous to your life or to a part of your body. Severe pain and active delivery are also considered emergencies. An emergency can also be related to your mental health. Your health plan should cover emergency care no matter where you are and what hospital you go to.

Some limitations may apply to emergency services received outside the United States. In addition, you may be transferred to a hospital in your health plan's network when you are stable enough to be transferred. Generally, you may not be billed for the balance for emergency services, but some limitations may apply to emergency services received outside of California. Urgent care providers can request basic laboratory tests and imaging tests, such as x-rays, to help them provide diagnoses and develop treatment plans. Urgent care is given when your condition, illness, or injury is not life-threatening, but you need medical care so that treatment cannot be delayed until you can return to your health plan's service area. The cost of an urgent care visit is the same as the cost of the Ingalls Memorial emergency service for the same level of care.

Urgent care centers are not a substitute for emergency care, since they don't have the same equipment or trained staff that emergency departments have, but they can be a good option for minor injuries or illnesses or if the doctor's office is closed. Go to an urgent care clinic when you need care right away, but the illness or injury isn't considered fatal. Urgent care clinics typically have much shorter wait times than emergency rooms and cost less than a visit to the emergency room of a traditional hospital. The co-pay for emergency services will apply to your urgent help consultation, which may be greater than the co-pay for services provided by urgent care centers that are not part of a hospital's emergency department. If your plan doesn't pay for the emergency or urgent care you received, you can file a complaint with your plan. If a stable patient needs higher-level imaging, such as an ultrasound or a CT scan, emergency devices may be more appropriate than an urgent care clinic.

As a result, urgent care clinics tend to be less expensive and have shorter wait times than emergency departments. Unless a condition is life-threatening, going to an urgent care center is often a better use of a patient's time and resources to treat injuries, fevers, infections, and other ailments.

Bridgette Onken
Bridgette Onken

Subtly charming food fan. Total tv enthusiast. Passionate food ninja. Hardcore travel junkie. Friendly burrito practitioner.