According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Americans average more than 136 million visits to one of the country’s nearly 5,000 emergency rooms. Approximately 20 million of them arrive by ambulance. About 43% of all hospital admissions originate in an emergency room, the rest are treated and sent home.
Most trips to the ER aren’t necessary, but because hospital ERs are required by federal law to provide care to all patients, regardless of their ability to pay, ERs continue to see more and more patients. Since patients can’t be turned away, those without insurance or the money to pay out-of-pocket costs, often choose the emergency room as their main health care provider. This is a problem. It not only puts a huge strain on ERs, but it limits their ability to attend quickly to true health emergencies.
We could save an estimated $18 billion a year if patients who have non-emergency conditions scheduled an appointment with their primary care provider or made a trip to urgent care.
Urgent care centers are a great bridge between your primary care doctor and emergency room services. Urgent care centers now care for more than 73% of Americans who don’t have access to their primary care doctor at night or on weekends.
There are approximately 9,300 urgent care centers in the U.S. They’re typically open seven days a week until 9 p.m. or later. Urgent care centers are staffed by family care and emergency room physicians and they can perform nearly the same services offered in the traditional doctor’s office or emergency room with two major exceptions: If you think you are having a stroke or heart attack or have severe burns or electrical shock, call 911 or go to your nearest hospital emergency rooms.
For non-urgent conditions, including fever, flu symptoms, allergic reactions, minor cuts, animal bites, headaches and broken bones, go to your local urgent care center first. You’ll save time and money.