When you’re not feeling well, it can be difficult to determine what kind of care is right for you. For the average person who doesn’t work in the medical field (most of us!), you’ll probably be making your decision to visit the emergency room or urgent care based on the following factors:
- Immediacy of care
- Severity of symptoms
Unfortunately, the cost of healthcare is a hindrance for many in choosing the right care for them—especially if they’ve been saddled with an emergency room bill they could have avoided.
But if you can easily determine what symptoms are bothering you, a quick hop-and-skip to your local urgent care, instead of the emergency room, could save you hundreds of dollars.
With the help of our EMBER Medic Team, we’re sharing the top 5 conditions seen at the emergency room that can be better treated at an urgent care.
- Anxiety-Induced Non-Cardiac Chest Pain
Chest pain can be serious. It is often the primary symptom of heart attacks and/or oncoming cardiac arrest. But chest pain is also notoriously ambiguous and can be related to a slew of other non-life threatening conditions, including stress or anxiety.
If you’re feeling more than just a slight twinge, it’s best to seek medical care. However, if you do not have a history of diabetes or heart-related conditions, if you’re young, or if you’ve dealt with episodes of anxiety before, it is appropriate to visit the urgent care.
In a study published in 2017, researchers found that 77% of adults reporting at least one panic attack in the past 6 months visited the emergency room with non-cardiac chest pain. Unless serious psychiatric symptoms also are also present, these cases are typically treated with a Xanax and a hefty emergency room bill.
And, of all emergency room visits where chest pain is the primary symptom, only 5.5% are actually life-threatening.
Though stress and anxiety can make it difficult to think about anything other than immediate care, urgent care is immediate care for a non-life threatening instance like anxiety-induced chest pain and can provide the treatment you need without the emergency room cost.
Asthma is the primary reason for 2 million visits to the emergency room each year. That’s 9 visits for every 100 Americans with Asthma each year—each costing an average of $1502.
If you’re having severe difficulty breathing, so much so that you can’t say more than a few words at a time, then it’s best to visit the emergency room immediately.
But for minor to moderate Asthma attacks, the urgent care is well equipped to treat you. In addition to immediate prescriptions and/or treatment, urgent care physicians are also able to discuss better alternatives for preventative care that can help you better manage your symptoms.
- Ear Infection
In 2015, 1.2 million kids age 15 and under visited the emergency room with an ear infection. That’s insane!
Though chronic ear infections do require a myringotomy (small procedure that allows fluids to more easily drain from the ear), many ear infections are not serious. Earache pain is most often linked to a cold or virus and clears up alongside the cold, though occasionally physicians will prescribe antibiotics or over-the-counter pain medication, like Tylenol.
Nothing is more frustrating than receiving an emergency room bill in exchange for being told to take a Tylenol and wait a couple days. For tired parents, this is when skipping the emergency room wait for urgent care might be the godsend you need.
Migraines account for 1.2 million visits to the emergency room each year. If your migraine pain is sudden and debilitating (i.e. unable to perform daily tasks) and you have no prior history of such headaches, it is best to seek emergency care to rule out strokes or aneurysms.
But few migraine cases require emergency care. The urgent care provides the same services as an emergency room would, via pain treatment and prescription follow-up. An emergency room can do no more than rule out life-threatening conditions and help you manage pain.
Like Asthma, the key to reducing migraines is preventative care, which includes understanding your triggers, knowing how to keep the pain under control, and regular check-ins with a specialist.
- Urinary Tract Infections
Emergency room visits for urinary tract infections (UTIs) cost us a whopping $4 billion a year.
The symptoms for a UTI—frequent need to urinate and accompanying burning sensation—are uncomfortable, but easily treated with antibiotics.
The emergency room, especially in the case of UTIs, is an expensive and not-so-timely way of getting that antibiotic prescription. For patients with UTIs, the urgent care can write that prescription out faster, without the long wait, and get you feeling better ASAP.
EMBER: Putting an End to the Guesswork
For the conditions listed above, the urgent care is almost always a faster and cheaper alternative to the emergency room. But for more ambiguous symptoms that you can’t diagnose yourself, it’s important to seek the advice of a medical professional to understand what care is best for you. That’s where EMBER steps in. With our on-demand video, phone, and live chat features, the EMBER mobile app connects you with a medical professional in minutes. Download the app today, available on iPhone and Android, to learn more.