WPS Health Insurance Blog

Should I go to urgent care or the ER?

Posted by Ryan Kanable

Apr 23, 2013 9:00:00 AM

emergency room signYou’re doing some yard work when you trip over a rake, fall against a tree, and bend your wrist—the wrong way. Ouch! You’re pretty sure it’s sprained. What should you do? Do you go to urgent care or to the emergency room?

You have to use your best judgment. However, a little background on the purpose of each helps make your choice clearer.

Emergency rooms are for life-threatening situations that demand immediate treatment. Such situations may include, but are not limited to, chest pain lasting more than a couple of minutes, uncontrolled bleeding, sudden or severe pain, coughing or vomiting blood, difficulty breathing, and other severe issues. ERs are set up as a triage, meaning patients are prioritized from most ill to least ill. Patients who have life-threatening injuries or illnesses are treated first, while others with minor injuries or illnesses have to wait.

Fortunately, most health problems are not emergencies. You can save time—and often, money—by using one of the many urgent care clinics available to you through your health plan. Injuries and illnesses appropriate for urgent care may include cuts that may require stitches, sprains, strains, mild to moderate asthma attacks, ear infections, coughs and congestion, sore throats, insect bites and other similar issues.

But before you head out to urgent care, a good first step is to call your primary care physician (find a doctor) and describe your symptoms.Many doctors can rearrange their schedules to squeeze patients in for non-emergency medical attention.

When you’re ill or injured, the last thing you want to do is sit and wait for treatment. Making the right choice for medical treatment can save you some frustration, time, and maybe even some money.

For more health insurance tips, information, and money-saving strategies, visit the WPS Learning Center. If you are really accident-prone (or if you simply don't have insurance), you should take a look at our information on a high-quality individual or family health plan from WPS.

Topics: health insurance