It’s a scene that often plays out in countless emergency rooms: a patient with an immediate medical concern makes a late night trip to the emergency room only to wait and wait, watching minutes turn to hours as they wait for their name to be called.

While going to the ER can be a quick fix, those who go could be in for a long wait. The average time spent waiting in the ER increased from 46.5 minutes to 58.1 minutes from 2003 to 2009. Not only are visitors left in physical pain from long waits, they could be left feeling financial pain as well. According to the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, the average ER visitor pays anywhere from $615 to $1,318 per visit.

With the cost of ER visits on the rise, those in need of medical care have many options when it comes to finding a quicker and more cost-effective way to be treated.

Primary Care

One option is getting set up with a primary care physician. Primary care allows patients to establish rapport with a doctor, leading to better communication about acute or on-going medical problems. Patients are more likely to feel comfortable with and open up more around a physician they’re familiar with. In turn, the physician is better able to diagnose and treat issues if someone is a longtime patient.

For those wanting to establish a primary care doctor, a patient must consider what kind of care they might need and find a doctor that fits those needs. Family care physicians can treat everyone from infants to the elderly; general practice physicians can offer the same kind of care; specialists who work in internal medicine can care for those dealing with persistent conditions or diseases.

Referrals can go a long way too as wary patients are likely to feel comfortable talking to and being cared for by a physician who gets a nod of approval from a friend or family member.

Walk in Clinic

Another convenient, cost-effective option is going to a free walk in clinic. A community health clinic is often closer to patients than a hospital and in some cases, they are free walk in clinics. Free walk in clinics also offer a variety of services and are staffed by doctors who can deal with a wide range of medical issues quickly. Those in need of care can often be seen faster at a walk in clinic and they can be more cost effective than emergency rooms. Depending on the service, a visitor’s out of pocket expenses are much lower, especially for people who don’t have medical insurance.

Urgent Care facilities

A third alternative to emergency rooms are urgent care facilities. Urgent care facilities are essentially a bridge between a walk-in health clinic and the emergency room. Unlike some walk-in medical clinics, which deal with basic medical aliments, urgent care facilities can offer many services including lab and blood work, x-rays and treatment for broken bones and fractures. Urgent care facilities deal with non-severe issues and are typically open every day and sometimes with extended hours.

All three of these options offer patients more convenient, cost-effective alternatives to an ER visit, but if a medical issue persists for too long, seeking help from a specialist is advisable. A specialist often deals with a specific part of the body or specializes in a particular form of medicine and can offer treatment for a specific aliment more effectively than an urgent care facility or a primary care physician.

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