Urgent care vs. emergency room: making the right choice

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by Mia Gradney / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on May 8, 2013 at 1:13 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 8 at 1:20 PM

HOUSTON -- It seems as though they’re on every corner, or at least within a couple of miles of each other.

Urgent care clinics and free standing E.R. facilities are opening up at a rapid pace, but would you know the difference? It’s a little confusing, but knowing the difference could save you money.

“Conveince is the name of the game now,” says Jon Belsher with Med-Spring Urgent Care. “It’s the day and age we live in.”

Patients want in and want out whether it’s an emergency or not.

If you have had an emergency room experience, you know that can take hours, and making an appointment with a regular doctor may take days or weeks. But with urgent care, you can walk right in.

The big issue comes to the bill: people going to some urgent care clinics do so not realizing that they’re going to be charged thousands for something that shouldn’t cost them more than a few hundred dollars.

Understanding the difference between urgent care and E.R. facilities could save you money says Dr. Michael Iversen, who for years worked as an E.R. doctor.

“An emergency room that’s free-standing really has to have the ability to do what an emergency room in a hospital can do,” says Dr. Iversen. “Because of that, they have higher expenses and they charge higher charges.”

He recommends patients go to E.R. hospitals when it’s a matter of life or limb. Otherwise, an urgent care clinic or primary care physician is the best option for your health and wallet.

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