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Emergency Rooms vs. Urgent Care

Emergency Rooms vs. Urgent CareIt can be frightening whenever an unexpected injury or sudden illness strikes. When something alarming occurs, we register such events as emergencies. However, when it comes to your health, it may be prudent to determine what is an emergency (defined as potentially life threatening) and what can be managed more conservatively. Situations that many people consider to be “emergencies” could really be treated with high quality care, and at a lower cost, at an urgent care center. According to a 2012 study from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 20% of Americans visit the emergency department at least once a year, bringing the annual total of ER visits to 130 million.

It is important as a health care consumer to know your options for care and how to determine the most appropriate care for specific situations. Emergency rooms are located in hospitals and are open 24 hours a day every day of the year.  Emergency rooms have access to all necessary equipment and personnel to handle life threatening injuries and illness. If you enter the emergency room with what is considered to be a non-emergent situation, you can often expect long waiting periods and in many cases denial of payment from your insurance. Most insurance companies will only cover the cost of an emergency room visit if the ailment being treated was in fact emergent.  The overhead cost of running an emergency room is also much higher than that of an urgent care, which inevitably results in a higher co-pay for the consumer.

Urgent care clinics, such as Total Access Urgent Care, are equipped with licensed physicians, other qualified medical professionals, and equipment to treat most routine illnesses and injuries across all age groups.  While urgent care clinics are not open 24 hours a day, they do provide extended care hours for incidents that occur outside that of normal medical office hours. Unlike the ER, order of care is not determined by ailment, but on a first come first serve basis. Urgent care centers often stand at independent locations to increase patient access to care. Co-pays tend to be lower than that for an emergency room visit and most insurance plans include specific urgent care systems in their networks.  According to the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), it is estimated that more than $18 billion could be saved annually if patients with non-emergent issues sought care from urgent care clinics or their primary care physicians.

Total Access Urgent Care has the capability to perform x-rays, ultrasound, CT scans, Department of Transportation (DOT) physicals, drug and alcohol testing, immunizations, occupational medicine services, physical examinations, and workers’ compensation injury assessments. Total Access is the only urgent care company in St. Louis owned by board certified and residency trained emergency medicine physicians. No appointment is necessary to visit one of the urgent care centers. The St. Louis urgent care center is 6 AM to 10 PM seven days a week and the five other surrounding area locations are open 8 AM to 8 PM seven days a week. For more information about Total Access Urgent Care or to locate a clinic near you, visit www.totalaccessurgentcare.com.

So, the next time you or someone you know has an injury or illness, consider your options. Ask yourself, “Is this situation an emergency?” If not, then consider visiting an urgent care clinic to receive timely care at a fraction of the cost. If you have an injury that is non-emergent and would like to gather more information, visit melandersportsmedicine.com and visit our new interactive patient education feature. For quick and convenient appointment times, call 636-62-SPORT (7-7678).

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About Dr. Matthew P. Melander

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Melander Sports Medicine St. Louis