It’s the kind of thing that you don’t know that you need to know until you need to know it. Ideally, you’ll never have an occasion to need to know the best emergency room or urgent care clinics in your area, but if you need emergency services, you probably don’t have time to do your homework and figure out the best place to go on the spot.
To help you out, we’ve put together a list of factors to include in your emergency care plan, so that you’re prepared if disaster ever strikes:
- Understand your health insurance.
Having health insurance does not mean you aren’t going to be left with some financial obligation after visiting an emergency room or urgent care. If you don’t want to be left with a four-digit bill for a simple trip to get an antibiotic prescription, you should understand your health insurance copay policy in advance. Some health insurance plans will not cover a trip to the emergency room if your required treatment was not an emergency. Some plans pay more of the bill if the facility you go to is in your network. Some insurance plans treat a visit to urgent care the same as a visit to the doctors office, and charges your copay accordingly. Since every insurance plan is as unique as the medical care you might find yourself needing, make sure you understand your plan’s policy in advance so you don’t get care that leaves you with an unnecessarily high bill.
- Do your local research, in advance.
There are so many factors that contribute to a well-run medical facility. The management, the policies and procedures, the staff who actually administer medicine can all impact the quality of care you receive. These factors vary from one facility to the next, even if they are within the same umbrella group, so it’s important to do local research.
For example, let’s say you live in Allen, Texas. You need to know the quality of care specifically offered at Allen emergency rooms, regardless of what enterprise they are run by. Do a quick “Allen emergency room reviews” or “Best Allen emergency room to go to” or “Allen emergency rooms to avoid” on Google before you ever need to know. Because when you’re actually experiencing an emergency, you don’t have time to figure it out then.
- Know when to go to emergency room and when to go to urgent care.
Most people lump urgent care and emergency room into the same group. However, each entity serves a different and very important purpose in our medical infrastructure. The biggest differences are:
- The emergency room is for emergencies. That’s it. If you are experiencing chest pains, that’s an emergency. If you have a laceration and are bleeding profusely, that’s an emergency. If you lost consciousness, that’s an emergency. If you hit your head or spine extremely hard, that’s an emergency. Any time your vitality is in danger, you should skip past the urgent care, and go straight to the emergency room. It is important to reserve the emergency room for life-saving emergencies, as tying up emergency room resources for non-emergencies makes them unavailable when someone’s life is on the line.
- The urgent care is a step down from the ER. If your medical need is not life-threatening, but you need medical care within the next 24 hours, the urgent care is the place to go. The urgent care also provides many of the same medical treatments that your doctor’s office provides. If you need lab work done, urgent care can help you out. If you need an x-ray and fracture care, hit up urgent care. If you have a fever, a sore throat, and infection, and so on, the urgent care can probably treat you.
The benefit of going to urgent care rather than your own doctor is that most urgent care facilities are open on nights and weekends, and accept patients on a walk-in basis, so you don’t have to take off work or wait in misery to get an appointment with your doctor.
Do you have any other tips for creating a good emergency medical plan? Please share your input in the comment section below!