When you have a medical emergency on your hands – especially when it involves a close friend or loved one – the last thing you want is to end up at the wrong medical facility and find yourself in need of seeking treatment elsewhere. Yet this happens all too often – namely when people visit urgent care centers for medical situations that require emergency room treatment.
In the opposite scenario, people might visit the emergency department for something that could have easily been taken care of by their local urgent care center. However, this is not as serious a mistake. It may place undue burden on ER staff, and it may end up costing the patient or family a lot more then urgent care would in time and money. But it won’t put anyone’s life at risk.
In order to prevent this kind of mishap in the future, take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with four common situations in which urgent care is more appropriate than a visit to the emergency department.
1. Broken bones
Unless the break is severe and there is a possibility of internal injuries, a visit to the ER is probably not necessary. Most fractures can be treated very effectively by urgent care staff, including x-rays and splinting
This might come as a surprise, but a lot of people actually visit the ER with flu-like symptoms. If they knew that urgent care could take care of them just as well, they probably wouldn’t waste the money, (ER visits cost over three times as much on average).
3. Stomach pain
Moderate to severe stomach pain can be caused by a large number of things, but most of them are not life-threatening. Unless you have reason to believe that the abdominal pain is life threatening, your local urgent care center is well-equipped to hand down a diagnosis and proper treatment.
4. Burns and cuts
First and second degree burns can be treated effectively in urgent care. Third degree burns, which are the most serious kind, always require a trip to the ER. First and second degree burns leave the skin with redness and swelling, while third degree burns leave it charred or white.
Cuts and scrapes are also suitable for urgent care, provided they’re not life-threatening. If the wound is deep or gaping, or if the bleeding won’t stop, it’s time for an urgent care visit, as they can suture. In case of a puncture wound to the head or torso, head straight for the ER.
Staying on top of medical emergencies
Parents and families who are more effective at responding to various medical situations are almost always familiar with the urgent care centers and emergency departments in their cities and towns. It’s true that most of us have smart phones and can easily get directions to a medical facility, but this can waste precious time and can also put people in danger if smart phones are used while driving in distress. It’s good practice to have your medical treatment facilities picked out in advance, and to know which type of facility is best for any given situation.