What’s up doc? Medical professionals weigh in on visiting urgent care facilities

By Anna Herod

Urgent care centers and emergency rooms are often the destination for ailing people who believe the facility will provide them faster, more convenient care, according to a recent Harvard poll.

Whether a patient should seek help at their primary physician’s office, an urgent care center or emergency room, however, depends on the circumstances or sicknesses they are facing.

Shannon Kostecka, director of marketing for Kyle ER, said people should go to an urgent care clinic if they were suffering from symptoms of the common cold, a sore throat or allergies, where they can’t wait a week to see their physician for treatment or antibiotics. 

“Whereas the emergency room, which is Kyle ER, if you have a broken bone, migraines, a concussion or if you need stitches, you would come to us,” Kostecka said. 

Cost is also a determining factor on the type of medical facility to go to as well, she said. 

“The only difference is that we’re going to charge based on your emergency room copay through your insurance, so that’s what Kyle ER is,” Kostecka said. “Your urgent care centers are going to charge a little higher, and it’s going to be higher than your family practitioner or primary care physician.”

According to a Seton Healthcare Family press release, preconceived notions about access to care could result in people going to facilities that may not match their medical needs.  

Oftentimes, calling a primary care doctor first is the best move, because it puts a patient in contact with a professional who can help them determine what the best path forward is, given any health situation, said Alison Ziari, chief of pediatrics at Austin Regional Clinic, in the release. 

“For example, let’s say you injure your ankle while playing basketball and you can’t tell if it’s broken or not,” Ziari said. “That’s when it would be appropriate to head to an urgent care center. That said, most primary care offices also offer urgent care access as well. The truth is that most people have much more access than they realize.”

Stephen Bekanich, medical director of Seton Health Alliance, said in the release that if someone has time to ask themselves where they should go for any given health problem, then the default decision should be to wait and see their primary care doctor. 

He advised patients not to let the “panic factor” take over, and that if it is not a life-threatening emergency, such as signs of stroke or chest pain, it is worth calling a primary care doctor before exploring other options.  

“Patients see that an ER has everything available, so they go without giving enough consideration to the out-of-pocket expenses and whether they are truly facing a medical emergency,” Bekanich stated. “They are also concerned that other health care venues will not have the services they need. In reality, there are appropriate options for most issues.”

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