Emergency Room vs. Urgent Care Center: Which to Use in an Emergency

Dealing with an ill or injured child can be extremely overwhelming, especially if the child isn't able to tell you what is wrong. Adults too can get anxious when faced with a situation where they are incredibly ill. During those intense moments of worry or pain, it may be difficult to determine the best course of action. People who need immediate medical assistance have several options, including calling an ambulance, going to the emergency room, or visiting an urgent care center. Different situations call for different medical centers. Going to the wrong type of medical institution may result in additional costs and wasted time. So how do you know which type of medical facility to go to?

Hospital Emergency Rooms

Emergency room visits are usually reserved for incidents that may be life threatening or that may result in the loss of eyesight or an appendage. People that are in extreme amounts of pain may also benefit by going directly to the emergency room. Complicated and severe situations that go to urgent care may end up getting rerouted to the emergency room anyway. This may result in lost time and an additional physician's bill.

According to TRICARE, the healthcare program of the United States Department of Defense Military, a hospital emergency department is a well-organized facility that provides around-the-clock emergency services to all patients in need of immediate medical attention.

Non-Hospital Emergency Rooms

Before you receive medical attention at an emergency center, be sure to ask whether the facility is affiliated with a hospital-based emergency program. TRICARE beneficiaries who go to an emergency center that is not linked to a hospital may run the risk of having to pay for the medical care they receive, without the help of the insurance company. They may also choose to go to another medical facility that is covered by TRICARE.

Urgent Care Centers

Over the past 20-years, more than 9,000 urgent care medical facilities have opened their doors across the nation. In fact, this rapid emergence of urgent care facilities has led them to overpower the number of hospital emergency rooms that are available. Many TRICARE beneficiaries and their families are able to get exceptional medical attention at a more affordable rate by going to an urgent care facility. If the type of medical situation is beyond the realms of the urgent care facility, they may refer the patient to an emergency room that has the technology to assist in their particular situation.

Finding a Provider

During an emergency situation, people may not have time to search for a TRICARE authorized provider. Healthcare experts suggest that TRICARE beneficiaries be proactive and search for an emergency provider nearest them in the case that an emergency should occur. You can determine whether a provider is authorized by TRICARE by calling your regional contractor.

Being prepared for an emergency can help in many ways. A person may be able to remain calm during the emergency because they know that the emergency care provider and facility is covered by their insurance. This may enable them to think more clearly and achieve a more successful outcome. Find out about the TRICARE-approved emergency rooms and urgent care facilities in your area.

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