Urgent care clinics are just one of several options for healthcare. But they are not always going to be your best option. For example, it may turn out that your best option saves you time and money compared to an urgent care clinic. But above all, your best option can improve you and your family’s health. So this article explains how to choose your best healthcare option.
To choose the best option, you must know three things. First, you must know what each option is good for. That is, what services each option offers. Second, you must know how much time and effort is needed to use each option. And finally, you must understand the cost of each option. The table below will give you the basic idea. And it’s a good start for learning how to choose your best healthcare option.
Healthcare Options: Services, Cost, and Convenience
|Quick & Easy?
|Online Care (telehealth)
|Urgent Care Clinics
|County Health Depts
|Primary Care Office Visits
|Specialist Office Visits
|Hospital Emergency Room
Your insurance should affect how you use this table. For example, insurance usually has a copay that must be paid out of pocket. In some cases, the copay may be higher than a reasonably priced online care visit. So one might choose online care if it can get the job done. On the other hand, if you must go to the emergency room, the copay becomes less important. Thus, the cost info in this table must be adjusted depending on the effect your insurance has.
Urgent Care vs Online Care
When comparing online care (telemedicine) to urgent care clinics, you can see in the table that online care is often faster, easier, and more economical. Also, conditions treated at urgent care clinics and conditions treated in online care are mostly the same. As a result, online care seems like the obvious choice. But, of course, that may not always be the case. And we’ll get into that next. But meanwhile, here is a partial list of conditions treated in both urgent care and online care:
- Sinus Infection
- Minor burns/injuries
- Pink eye/stye
- Prescription refills
- Urinary tract infection
- Yeast infection
- Skin infection
- Lice and Scabies
- Cold sores
Even though online care and urgent care treat many of the same conditions, urgent care offers treatments and testing that online care doesn’t. These may include X-rays, stitches, diagnostic tests, vaccines, and more. Depending on your case, the extra services can really matter. Even something like strep throat may require a diagnostic test to treat. And urgent care will be able to do that test. So if you feel you may need these extra services, urgent care could be your best option.
Urgent Care vs the Emergency Room
There will always be cases where your best healthcare option is not very clear. In such cases, costs can increase and health outcomes can be less than the best. Of course, healthcare providers are most qualified to choose the correct option. So patients sometimes consult with their provider when things are not clear. In this case, an online telehealth consult is ideal because access is fast and easy, and the cost can be low.
Patients consulting with providers online may simply get treatment online. But they may instead be referred to an option like urgent care or the emergency room (ER). Sometimes providers may feel that the ER is a better option because urgent care could refer the patient to the ER anyway. In other words, if a patient went to urgent care first, they could get stuck paying for both the urgent care and the ER. In the event something like this occurs, it may be helpful to know that urgent care costs around 5x less than the ER.
Yet costs should be your least concern when deciding between urgent care and the emergency room. That’s because it can be dangerous and even life threatening if you fail to go to the ER when you should. Thus it’s smart to find out what’s considered an emergency before one occurs. And also, learn from your provider how such decisions are made. But above all, if your healthcare provider ever recommends you go to the ER, please be safe and go. And if you yourself think you have an emergency, always dial 911 immediately.
Retail Clinics and Community Clinics
Retail clinics are found in drug stores and treat all of the same conditions as online care. They also treat some of the same conditions treated in urgent care, yet cost less than urgent care. For instance, retail clinics have vaccines and diagnostic tests for things like strep throat. And they also treat conditions that require a hands on exam such as inner ear problems.
Two inexpensive healthcare options are community clinics and your local county health department clinic. The health department specializes in vaccines and the treatment of sexually transmitted infections. Community clinics, on the other hand, are nonprofits that provide primary care. Both options are provided with the underserved community in mind. So if financial concerns are blocking your access to healthcare, these options may be good. And these sorts of clinics often lower their already low prices depending on the financial status of the patient.
Primary Care: Gateway to All Medical Services
Primary care is the control center of your healthcare. So it’s recommended you have a primary care provider (PCP). The idea is to have a single PCP who oversees your medical needs and helps you coordinate all that you do medically. The intention is to improve the quality of your care.
Having a PCP will give you full access to all medical services. This includes, well checks, tests, screenings, specialists, hospitalization, and more. Also, your PCP is a valued medical advisor. Think of them as a counselor and teacher. That is, use them to learn how medicine works. And over time, they can teach you much about how best to manage your healthcare.
Even though everyone should have a primary care provider, many people don’t. And there are many reasons for this. But no matter what the reason, it makes sense to consider getting one. One visit with a PCP doesn’t cost that much. And what you get from it would be well worth it.
There are immediate benefits to having your first visit with a primary care provider. For instance, if you ever need a PCP, it can be easier and faster to get care if you already have one. It’s a little like being part of a family. That’s why it’s nice to have one before you’re in need. And even if you always feel great and never go back to your PCP, they will always be there, just in case.
Using Primary Care With Online Care
There is no replacement for a primary care provider. However, there is a shortage of PCP’s and it’s often hard to get an appointment to be seen on short notice. As a result, many patients use online care because it’s so fast and easy.
Some patients would like to rely solely on telehealth, but that simply doesn’t work. Through primary care you can get everything. Whereas in telemedicine, you can’t. There are many important things that can’t be done using telehealth. And sooner or later, everyone’s likely to need one of these things. And of course, that just reinforces the wisdom of having a primary care provider at all times.
That said, online care can be a valuable resource when used together with primary care. Combining the power of primary care with the utility and economy of online care makes a combination that’s hard to beat.
For instance, Floriamed healthcare providers consider telehealth a pre-primary care treatment and triage service. That is, online care can be used before primary care. And perhaps your issue can be resolved with with online care alone. But if not, you can be triaged to the best place for your situation. So using teleheath and primary care together can make it much easier to manage your healthcare.
Urgent Care vs Your Best Healthcare Option
An urgent care clinic may or may not be your smartest healthcare option. If you need the emergency room, an urgent care clinic simply won’t do. And if you choose urgent care when telehealth would serve just as well, you’ll likely pay more. So of course, it’s always a good strategy to choose healthcare options that have the services you need with the best available convenience and cost.
So in the end, online care turns out to be a great option because it offers many services with convenience and low cost. Meanwhile, retail clinics, urgent care clinics, primary care, and the other options are there when you need the extra services they offer. In other words, what many people do is use online care to get healthcare fast and easy while using the other options as needed.
Best Use of Your Healthcare Options
The “Healthcare Options” table at the top of the page gives a good working comparison of average costs and convenience. But individual performance does vary. For instance, if you’re not insured or part of a health plan, online care can sometimes cost more than it should. Also, wait times for online care can too often be unreasonably long.
In contrast, we at Floriamed have pledged to provide affordable online care. And we strive to provide online care with the best service and convenience. For example, check out our “Cost Protection Policy”. This policy is designed to help patients avoid cost when their case is not suitable for telemedicine. It’s a must, because in the end, we want to be about quality care. Quality care means a practice built around the patient. And that means best service, best convenience, and best cost with skilled providers both expert in practice and expert in care. So please try Floriamed the next time you need care.