As hospitals seem to charge more and more these days for even the simplest trip to the emergency room, it is important to know that you really don’t need to use that ER for many of your urgent care needs. So what is your best emergency room alternative?

First, if you are having any indications of a serious emergency (i.e. chest pains indicating a possible heart attack or symptoms of a stroke, etc), you should call 911 immediately for quick transportation to a hospital.  With that disclaimer behind, many people experience the impulse to needlessly go to the emergency room. This happens for many illness symptoms or injuries that don’t require the sophisticated level of care that hospitals generally provide. 

Emergency room charges 

One of the biggest problems with emergency room charges is something called “surprise billing” after that emergency room visit. It can certainly come as a surprise, more likely a shock. This happens because most people assume that they are mostly covered when using the emergency room. However, they are often not aware that the providers who treat them there may not participate in their insurer’s network. If these hospital providers have not agreed to a certain fee for their services, those fees may be higher than an in-network provider. Don’t be fooled because your hospital has a contract with your insurer. The physician in the emergency room is not necessarily part of that network. This is most likely true when someone uses an emergency room in the course of their travels.

Although networks do not necessarily lower care costs appreciably, an out-of-network physician may cost even more. This results in patients receiving a bill for the part of the emergency room physician’s charge that is more than the in-network negotiated fees. 

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette recounts the story of a man who received a large bill for some minimal care he received at an out-of-town hospital emergency room for severe abdominal pain. He was attending an out-of-town conference in Florida. Although he tried to avoid the emergency room by contacting several urgent care centers, none of them would see him. So, he resorted to the nearest emergency room. 

The doctor who cared for the man in that emergency room ran some tests, gave him some medication and sent him on his way. When he was back home in Louisiana a month later he was feeling a lot better … until he got an out-of-network bill from the doctor who treated him. It was a whopping $1,620!

Your best emergency room alternative

There is an emergency room alternative – a Direct Primary Care practice. This type of practice can often make house calls for local care. It also takes care of many problems via telemedicine using text, email and video communications. In fact, telemedicine is the first contact when you have a medical issue or injury. For instance, if you are a member of the DPC practice Alive & Well in Southern Utah [insert hyperlink 2 here], our medical providers can talk with you about your symptoms, get a visual view using photos or video, and determine what your next move should be. We can also order prescriptions for you if all you require is medication. 

Direct Primary Care explained

What does a Direct Primary Care practice do? Simply stated, this type of practice provides routine and moderately urgent care for a wide variety of illnesses and injuries as well as basic preventative care. It provides much of this kind of care for a very low monthly or quarterly membership fee. Additional services, such as house calls, are available for a very low travel fee. In comparison to emergency room costs, such a fee is child’s play. You can be pretty sure that even if your problem requires a house or work site call, it’s not going to cost more than $1,000.

In some cases, a short chat with the physician and view of your problem via photo or video can lead to a prescription being ordered that will provide relief.

While not every problem will be solved so easily and without an emergency room visit, wouldn’t it be fantastic to know your own physician is just a phone call or text away before you find yourself in the ER? Even if you are out-of-town? There’s a good chance that your DPC provider may be able to offer you that emergency room alternative. 

When you are at home or at work, your chances of avoiding the emergency room are even better with a DPC such as Alive & Well. We are often able to send one of our providers, armed with the necessary supplies, to treat you at your home or workplace. If your situation requires x-rays or labwork, we can make the necessary arrangements for that as well.

Alive & Well … your emergency room alternative

Alive & Well works with many small and medium-sized businesses in the Southern Utah area to provide basic health care. This includes preventative care and safety measures at the work site to enhance your overall health and wellbeing. However, whenever one of those nuisance illnesses or injuries happen, we are your best emergency room alternative. So, if you are fortunate enough to be a member of our DPC, you can receive much more individualized urgent care at very affordable prices rather than resorting to the high costs of the emergency room. 

Do you have friends or neighbors who envy the great care you are getting at Alive & Well? Go ahead…encourage them to tell their bosses about the great and inexpensive care they can get for their employees. Why not spread the word about excellent and personalized health care so others can experience it?