Urgent Care, Emergency Care
Finding the Right Care for Seniors
By Dr. David Arai, Centennial Medical Center, Collin County LIVING WELL Magazine
Choosing the kind of medical care you need depends on your situation, especially as you get older. When aging, different issues start to affect the body and primary care physicians are consulted more often, but if minor problems or emergencies arise there are quicker, alternative facilities that can be sought for medical care. It is important to know all options available if an appointment with your personal doctor is unavailable. Dr. David Arai, emergency medicine physician on the medical staff at Centennial Medical Center in Frisco, Texas, highlights some important information on emergency care.
Hospitals typically provide a full range of services for common medical conditions as well as some level of emergency care. Urgent care centers offer medical care for conditions that need attention, but are not life-threatening. And in a doctor’s office, patients usually receive personalized service due to an established working relationship.
More than 370,000 Americans are treated in emergency departments daily. Emergency departments care for patients based on severity of illness or injury, not the order in which patients arrive. According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, warning signs of a medical emergency include:
- Problems breathing
- Chest or upper abdominal pain
- Fainting or sudden dizziness
- Changes in vision
- Uncontrollable bleeding
- Coughing or vomiting blood
- Confusion or changes in mental status
You do not need an appointment to go to the emergency room, but you may have to wait if other patients have more pressing medical needs. Some hospitals post their emergency room waiting times online––including Centennial Medical Center––so you can check before going to the hospital. You also may want to contact your insurance carrier about coverage for a visit to the emergency room since you could have a higher co-pay than you would for a doctor visit.
If you need medical care for a condition that is not a serious, immediate threat to life or health, you may want to go to an urgent care center when you cannot see your primary doctor right away. You do not need to have an appointment at an urgent care center. These clinics typically provide treatment for minor illnesses, cuts, burns, puncture wounds, fractures, bites, stings, sprains and strains. They often charge approximately the same as a doctor’s office, or slightly more, with less waiting. These clinics also may offer convenient on-site laboratory and X-rays, as well as extended hours in the evening and on weekends.
The primary difference between an urgent care center and your primary doctor’s office is that you can walk in to an urgent care center without an appointment. While the wait at a center may be shorter, there is a trade-off. Compared with your regular doctor’s office, the urgent care center staff may not be familiar with your medical history and your records will not be on file if you are not a regular patient there. In addition, some centers do not accept insurance from certain carriers.
“Ultimately, the hospital emergency room is the best place to be if you need emergency medical care,” says Arai. “In other situations, depending on when they occur and your ability to make an appointment to see your doctor, an urgent care center may be a more convenient, time-effective choice.”
For more information about when to go to the emergency room, talk with your doctor or visit centennialmedcenter.com.