Making a visit to the emergency room can be an expensive ordeal. Make sure you know what symptoms qualify you to visit a doctor, urgent care center, or the ER.
It’s important to know the most effective way to access care when you need it.
“Approximately one-third of all emergency room visits are for non-emergency problems,” says Steve Lee, M.D., chief medical officer for Humana Senior Products in Florida. “It can be a costly and time-consuming way to access care.” On average, the cost of an entire ER visit exceeds $800.
So what is the best course of action when it comes to getting the doctor care you need when you need it?
"Your primary care physician (PCP) is most knowledgeable and helpful when it comes to the coordination of your care,” explains Lee. “It’s very important to have a single doctor’s office that’s in the know and at the center of your healthcare."
A PCP provides your regular preventive care and screenings and works with any specialists to coordinate additional care. “Over time, they get to know you and can anticipate your health concerns,” says Lee.Some have physician assistants and advanced registered nurse practitioners as part of their practice. During those times when the PCP is unavailable, these people support the practice. “You shouldn’t be concerned if you’re directed to them, as they can provide quality care, write prescriptions, and usually work directly with your PCP to meet your overall healthcare needs,” says Lee. "Think of it as a team approach to your care."
|Place of treatment||Avg. cost per visit only*|
|Urgent care center||$108|
*excluding additional tests, procedures, or medications
When it comes to after-hours care, urgent care facilities – or walk-in clinics – are cost-efficient alternatives to emergency rooms. "If your PCP is not on call for after-hours care, he or she will have a covering physician responding to your call," says Lee. "They can provide advice and let you know whether you should visit an urgent care facility or whether something can wait to be managed until the following office day."
Remember that emergency rooms are for treating life-threatening situations. Save these visits for things like broken bones, chest pain, or difficulty breathing. Consider an urgent care facility when you need to see a doctor and your PCP office is unavailable
Whether you visit an urgent care facility or an emergency room, there are a few things you should always remember to do:
If you have questions about symptoms you’re experiencing, the HumanaFirst 24-hour Nurse Advice Line is available – for free – to most Humana members. Nurses on the other end of the line can answer your questions, assess your symptoms, make referrals to emergency room or urgent care facilities, or help you find a PCP in your area.
24 hours a day, seven days a week
This information was originally published in the Summer 2009 HAO Magazine.
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