MINNEAPOLIS -- Whether it's a winter-related injury or sickness around the holidays, health care facilities have been busy recently. The tricky part can be figuring out where to get help.
So how do you know whether you should visit the ER or urgent care, and should cost factor into the decision?
Dr. Emily Binstadt works in the ER at Regions Hospital.
"If you have any concern that you have a potentially life-threatening or limb-threatening illness, the emergency department is the right place."
It all basically depends on the intensity. You should visit the ER if you have:
- Uncontrollable bleeding
- Major cuts and burns
- Major injuries, like a compound fracture
- Severe stomach pain or allergic reactions
- Chest pain
Conversely, for urgent care, think of the following scenarios:
- Minor cuts and burns
- Back or muscle pain
- Sprains or joint pain
- Cold and flu symptoms, or a sore throat
As for when you call 911?
"I think 911 is an appropriate thing if you're ever concerned that you have a life-threatening process going on," Binstadt said, admitting that for some parents the goal posts might move. "Sometimes I think parents have a harder time determining which level of care their child needs, and that's OK."
If you have insurance, the average co-pay at urgent care is around $50. For the ER, it can be more than double that amount.
"If it's something that can be handled in an urgent care, even more appropriately in your primary care doctor's office, that's going to be the least expensive option," Binstadt said.
The benefit of ERs is they are connected to hospitals and its resources, and unlike with urgent care, they are open 24 hours.
If you're still unsure, there are 24/7 hotlines to call. HealthPartners and Allina Health both have them, with nurses ready to advise you on the care you need.
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