An emergency room isn’t the most awesome place to end up. Even if you end up in a peaceful, sparsely populated ER that happens to be rolling along like clockwork, your reason for being there is, most certainly, still unpleasant (at best).
Unfortunately, the truth for most of us is that emergency department ventures find us hunting a seat in a crowd of coughing, bleeding, sneezing people. Once we’ve laid claim to our spot, if we’re lucky, within ear shot of our separated loved ones, we settle in for what will be among the longest waits we experience in our lives. This isn’t an easy inevitability to swallow, as so many of us have grown accustomed to instant gratification. So why is the wait so long, and what other options are there for someone who needs medical attention?
The Dreaded Crowds of the Emergency Room
Emergency departments are intended for people with true emergencies, both the evident, obvious kind and the potential kind (like heart attack/stroke symptoms). The problem of overcrowding in emergency departments grows year after year. It has inevitable effects on the quality and timeliness of care available to patients, which only helps to perpetuate a culture of negativity around emergency medical care. Some argue that uninsured patients are to blame for the swelling numbers, as they often use the ER for non-emergency illnesses when they have nowhere else to go.
The truth is, most of the patients you’ll find in an emergency room do have insurance. In fact, according to a survey by the American College of Emergency Physicians, 97% of participating ER doctors said that they treat people daily who use Medicaid, but those patients are often unable to find a doctor who will accept it. Many of the other patients are insured, but end up at an emergency department because their primary care provider isn’t open or able to see them.
No Appointment Necessary at Local Urgent Care Centers
Enter the urgent care facility. People with ailments that require immediate attention, but aren’t life threatening can go to an urgent care center like Piedmont East Urgent Care in Rock Hill, SC. Urgent care facilities will treat adults, seniors and children ages one year and above, and provide care on a walk-in or same day basis. Quality medical treatment is available for typical patient needs like flu-like symptoms, respiratory and sinus infections, sore throats/ears, abdominal pain, and minor injuries. On-site x-rays and lab work are even available.
The great advantage here is patients can show up without an appointment and expect to see a doctor within minutes instead of the hours it would take at an ER. Most urgent care centers even have extended hours compared to primary practices. Piedmont East, for example, is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the week and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. In addition to the convenience these centers offer patients, they are also helping to open a release valve on overcrowded ERs. When more patients can get treatment in these facilities, they don’t have to crowd busy ERs. This means emergency rooms can function quickly and efficiently, and provide better care to their patients.
For this reason, hospitals have been begun building off-site urgent care facilities. There are now well over 9,000 urgent care facilities in the United States, and the numbers continue to rise. So the next time you’re facing a mild ailment for which you think an emergency room visit is the only option, consider finding your closest urgent care facility instead. Once you’re all fixed up, you’re biggest problem will be trying to decide what to do with all the time you’ve saved.
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David Tooley is a freelance blogger who, unfortunately, has too much experience with visits to the emergency room. He occasionally blogs for Financial Times Digest.