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Choosing a clinic over an emergency room could save you thousands

clinicThere’s no question that a hospital is the best place to seek care in a life-threatening emergency.

In situations that aren’t as serious, however, it can save you both time and money to seek treatment elsewhere. In a column for The New York Times, Dr. Richard Klasco and Dr. Richard Zane offered other options to consider for same-day care that may help you avoid the unpleasant surprise that often comes with an emergency room bill, such as a clinic, virtual care, and more.

Those options include:

  • Your doctor. Securing an in-office appointment may be difficult, especially at short notice. But many physicians will handle the pressing problem of an established patient over the phone.
  • Virtual care. Consider emailing your doctor or clinic. Klasco and Zane also point to websites, such as Doctor On Demand and UC Health Virtual Visits, which are staffed by physicians and can provide treatment for simple medical problems.
  • Retail clinic. Increasingly found in pharmacies, supermarkets and even airports, a clinic can provide quick care for minor complaints, such as a sore throat.
  • Urgent care. These clinics offer walk-in care for injuries and illnesses that are not life-threatening and, usually, at a much lower cost than a hospital emergency room.
  • Emergency rooms. There are now different types of hospital emergency rooms from stand-alone to trauma centers. They all deliver lifesaving care, though stand-alone emergency rooms are often the quickest.

How do you know where to go? Always seek emergency room care if you or a loved one suffers from chest or abdominal pain, shortness of breath or vomiting, Klasco and Zane advise. Consider alternatives if you have a cough, sore throat, headache, fever or back pain.

Have you saved time or money by seeking same-day care someplace other than a hospital emergency room? How did it work out? Share your story with Voices for Affordable Health.