Do I Go to the Emergency Room, or an Urgent Care Center?The United States has one of the most modern and robust medical care systems in the world, but you will pay dearly for the care you receive. Sometimes, either because of an injury or severe symptoms, you realize that you need medical attention right away. You know that a visit to the emergency room is going to be costly and possibly require a long wait to be seen. How do you decide where to go?

Ambulatory care centers, outpatient care centers, and urgent care clinics provide medical care on an outpatient basis and convenient access to a medical care for people who do not have a doctor. The growth of these facilities has given consumers more options when they need care, but it is important to understand which the appropriate option is.

What is the difference between an urgent care clinic and a hospital ER?

If you are dealing with a true medical emergency which is potentially life-threatening, you should rush to the nearest emergency department. Medical conditions that are not life-threatening can be attended to at an outpatient medical clinic.

A medical group of urgent care centers provides the following list of medical conditions which require a visit to an ER:

  • Signs of heart attacks, including chest pain
  • Signs of stroke, like sudden onset of numbness in the arms or legs
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Poisoning
  • Major life- or limb-threatening injuries
  • Severe wounds and amputations
  • Coughing up or vomiting blood
  • Suicidal or homicidal feelings

If you are experiencing a medical condition that is not urgent, or an injury that is serious enough to require medical attention, but is not life-threatening, flu symptoms, allergic reactions, broken bones, sprains, strains and cuts and lacerations are appropriate for an urgent care medical center.

Examples of urgent care medical clinics in the Chicago area

The following are just a few examples of outpatient, ambulatory care centers int eh Chicagoland area:

  • MedSpring Urgent Care in Wicker Park
  • Aayu Clinics
  • Physicians Immediate Care in North Center
  • Mercy Medical/Mercy Works at Dearborn Station
  • Michigan Avenue Primary Care/Immediate Care
  • Northwestern Medicine Immediate Care in River North

Has the rise in urgent care centers caused a decrease in emergency room visits?

According to a story in U.S. News and World Report, people with minor medical conditions are skipping the emergency room and opting for urgent care centers instead. The JAMA Internal Medicine published an article which reported that ER visits between 2008 and 2015 for low-acuity conditions dropped by 36%, while visits to non-emergent care facilities, such as urgent care centers or calls in to telemedicine services, grew by 140%.

The U.S. News and World Report article observed that the rapid rise in the number of urgent care and retail medicine centers, and the rise of telemedicine services may be driven by patients’ limited access to care, convenience, longer wait times in emergency rooms and increased expenses from hospitals.

Patient safety in ambulatory care and emergency department settings

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) tracks healthcare quality and patient safety for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is leading efforts to improve ambulatory quality and safety through programs and research funding. A 2016 World Health Organization study found that missed and delayed diagnoses and medication errors as the highest safety priority for ambulatory care.

The lack of coordination of care when dealing with an urgent care center, poor physician and patient communication, and poorly handled transitions which occur when a patient is transferred to the hospital and then discharged from the hospital can also create an opportunity for preventable medical mistakes.

A study published in De Gruyter’s Journal Diagnostics reports that almost half of medical errors that occur in the emergency room are due to problems with information processing. With as many as 250,000 deaths per year in the U.S. from preventable medical errors, the report suggested that errors are due to the way doctors cognitively process the data they have about patients. So, the doctors have the right information, but they do not act on it properly.

Being informed about how and where to access the healthcare you and your family needs is important. Because they are made by humans, medical mistakes can happen in any kind of healthcare setting. If you have been injured because of medical negligence, you may have grounds for legal action.

At Gainsberg Law, our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers hold doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers accountable when they take lives or cause physical harm. You may call us at 312-600-9585 or fill out our contact form to speak with an attorney in Chicago.