When unexpected illnesses or injuries occur, it is sometimes difficult deciding whether the condition needs treatment at an emergency department or urgent care facility. Urgent care facilities are very useful for people who have an illness, injury or other health care concern and are unable to get an appointment with their primary care physician. Urgent care facilities have many of the capacities and abilities of an emergency department, yet on an outpatient care basis. Urgent care health care providers often treat:
- Sprained joints.
- Wounds that need suturing.
- Flu, fever, sore throats and common colds.
In short, if you are experiencing a non-life-threatening illness or injury, and do not suspect the need to be admitted to a hospital, it is best to seek treatment at an urgent care facility. If your condition is assessed and determined by an urgent care health care provider to need emergency medical attention, they will make sure you get the proper treatment.
If an individual is experiencing a life-threatening situation, it is best to call 911 immediately and be seen by an emergency room provider. Symptoms and situations include:
- Heart attack.
- Trouble breathing, chest pain and shortness of breath.
- Traumatic injury, such as a severe fall, vehicle accident or extremely deep laceration.
- Sudden facial drooping or weakness in arm or leg, or seizures.
- Broken bones.
- Thoughts of harming yourself or someone else.
If you feel like you can’t wait to see your primary care provider and need an ambulance, it’s best to go to the emergency room.
If you can’t make it to urgent care or your provider’s office, Cone Health offers e-visits and video visits through Cone Health Connected Care. Online visits with a medical professional are a convenient way to take care of minor conditions (sinus issues, coughs, flu-like symptoms, back pain, etc.). Your virtual care provider can diagnose, recommend treatment and prescribe medication as needed. These are available 24/7, 365 days a year from your phone, tablet or computer.
Another alternative to urgent and primary care is InstaCare. It uses an affordable, transparent fee structure that varies by the type of visit you need – so there are no surprises, co-pays or deductibles. Pricing ranges from $29 to $89 and all major credit cards, flexible spending account cards and health savings account cards are accepted, as well as cash. The current wait time is listed on their website and is visible in the office, and walk-ins are welcome.
If you can go to an urgent care location, you’ll save both time and money. The average wait time in the emergency room is between 2 and 8 hours; at urgent care, you should be in and out in about an hour. Costs may vary based on your insurance coverage. The average cost of a visit to the ER is about $500; urgent care is between $90 and $150.
Cone Health has an exceptional network of urgent care facilities, emergency departments, and a trauma care center dedicated to providing immediate treatment for individuals in the community experiencing unexpected illness, injury and other concerning health conditions.
Jason Upham, MSN, RN, CEN, is the department director of the Moses Cone Hospital Emergency Department. He received his associate degree in registered nursing from Coastal Carolina Community College, his bachelor’s degree in registered nursing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and his master’s degree in registered nursing from American Sentinel University.