Consumers have a wide variety of choices when it comes to taking care of their mind, body and spirit, but many people remain confused about where to go to get treatment. From office visits to neighborhood clinics to online doctors, caring for yourself has never been more convenient. Then there’s the emergency department, which remains the main source of care for many Americans, specifically for those who unfortunately do not have insurance.
This default usage of emergency departments has created a major strain on the entire health care industry, not to mention the strain it places on consumers’ wallets. For instance, the average cost of an emergency department visit is $1,000. Compare that to the average cost of an urgent care visit of $150, and you can get a sense of how this has become a real issue for many Americans.
At an individual level, the cost gap between emergency and urgent care is vast. When you consider the cost at a national level, that’s when the numbers become truly troublesome. The most recent data available from the CDC suggests that there were more than 136 million visits to emergency rooms in 2012. Such high usage rates of emergency departments resulted in American’s spending $3 trillion on health care in 2014, and makes paying off medical debt the No. 1 cause of bankruptcy in the U.S.
And, it’s not all about money. Emergency departments have a finite number of beds and care staff. When low acuity (non-emergency) conditions consume emergency department resources, people who need immediate treatment may not get it. While statistics vary across states, up to 65 percent of ER visits are avoidable. The concept of “emergency” has been replaced with “convenience,” which is creating a real issue to consumers and providers alike.
Sometime in our lives we will likely interact with a variety of care outlets, but we want to shine a spotlight on the choices you have for caring for yourself and your family. Using data from our own organization, the infographic below is meant to provide you with some useful guidance on the care options at your disposal.
If your need is truly an emergency, get to the hospital as fast as you can. But if you can avoid the minimum of $1,000 out of pocket and the four-hour average wait time that accompanies an emergency department visit, consider visiting a walk-in clinic or schedule an appointment with an online doctor. You have choices, and you can help reduce the overall cost of health care.
If you need help finding a doctor, search our provider directory.
Learn more about your care choices