Don’t be hit with an unexpected medical bill.
It can be terrifying when your child gets sick enough to warrant an immediate trip to the doctor. If your regular pediatrician isn’t available, your next thought may be to go straight to the emergency room. That’s an understandable reaction. You just want them to get treated quickly so they can feel better as soon as possible.
However, there are many circumstances when urgent care may actually be the best place to take your child when they’re sick. What a lot of parents don’t often realize, is you’ll be seen faster at an Urgent Care.
The average waiting time at the ER is three hours!! That’s excruciating and exhausting, especially when your son or daughter is really upset. At urgent care facilities, on the other hand, the average wait time is just 30-40 minutes. And, there are now online sites like Solv that help you find an urgent care visit with just a few taps.
Secondly, an ER can be a pretty scary place for children. From the waiting room area to all the medical machinery to being in such close proximity to other patients (many with very serious conditions), it can be traumatizing. Urgent care facilities tend to be a much more pleasant experience. The waiting rooms are calmer, the treatment rooms are more private, and the doctors are generally less rushed.
Most importantly, the cost of a visit to the emergency room will be far higher than an Urgent Care. It can be astronomical, even for minor conditions. According to PLOS One, a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science, the median bill for an ER visit is a whopping $1200. At urgent care, the average bill is just $150. That’s a significant out-of-pocket savings, especially if you have a high-deductible insurance plan. “I always tell parents, do you want an $800 earache or a $100 earache for the same level of care?” says Gary Gerlacher, M.D. and CEO of Pediatric Urgent Care Consultants (he’s also worked in ER facilities).
Of course, if you think your child is experiencing something life-threatening, the ER is the best place to go. That’s primarily because they have the equipment necessary to treat more serious medical issues. “As a general rule,” says Gerlacher, “we tell people that anything that can be life threatening—like significant blood loss, severe difficulty breathing, or altered mental status—you should go to ER.”
But there are many less-severe, acute ailments that can be treated just as well at an urgent care facility as at the ER (without the wait time and high out-of-pocket costs). Gerlacher even argues that in some cases, urgent care doctors are better suited to identify and then treat these types of things because they do it day in and day out. Urgent care practitioners can quickly administer IV fluids, do basic laceration repair, X-rays, splinting, and asthma care. And for kids with a nasty sore throat, a rapid strep test at urgent care takes just minutes. The same test would take an hour at the ER.
For children experiencing the following symptoms, Gerlacher says urgent care may make more sense (and could save you some out-of-pocket cost):
- Ear pain
- Sore throat
- Flu and cold symptoms
- Fever without rash
- High fevers
- Cuts and scrapes
- Broken bones
- Painful urination
- Minor injuries and burns
As a worried parent, we know it’s your top priority to get the best treatment. That’s why when your child has certain symptoms, urgent care is often the best option to get them happy and healthy quickly. Then they can get back to the playground.