Keeping PACE – Urgency versus Emergency - Senior Care Partners P.A.C.E. (2024)

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between Urgent Care and Emergency Care? Me too. I connected with Amber Davenport, PA-C, Regional Clinical Director at WellNow Urgent Care to learn more. It is important to know your options for Primary Care (PCP), Urgent Care, and Emergency Care (or ER) and when is the right time for each. We discussed general information as well as some answers specific to WellNow to use as a frame of reference to some of my questions.

RYAN: I think that sometimes people struggle to know when they should see their Primary Care Provider, when to go to Urgent Care, and when it’s time to head straight to the ER. What is the difference between Urgent Care and Emergency Care and Primary Care?

AMBER: Urgent care centers like WellNow provide walk-in, same-day treatment for non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries such as colds and flu, COVID-19, sprains and strains, strep throat, minor burns and lacerations, infections, and more. Urgent care centers also offer services like x-rays and sutures, which many primary care providers don’t provide. WellNow is open 8am-8pm seven days a week, and virtual care is also available 24/7, so patients never have to delay care.

The emergency department handles life-threatening medical emergencies and serious conditions that require more advanced testing and care. This could include traumatic injuries, chest pain, stroke, difficulty breathing, severe allergic reactions, and more. The emergency department will always prioritize the most serious patients, so those with non-life-threatening conditions may face long wait times.

Primary care providers are responsible for managing the overall physical and mental health needs of their patients, including preventative health screenings and ongoing management of chronic conditions such as diabetes.

RYAN: How do I know if I should go to Urgent Care, ER, or wait to get into see my PCP?

AMBER: Anyone with an injury or illness that requires immediate attention but is not serious enough to warrant a trip to the ER can visit an urgent care center for evaluation and treatment. Patients who don’t have a primary provider, or who are unable to get a timely appointment with their PCP, may also find it more convenient to visit their local urgent care center.

Anyone who is experiencing a medical emergency such as difficulty breathing, chest pains, symptoms of a stroke, head injury, or other serious conditions should call 911 right away or proceed to the nearest emergency department.

If a patient is unsure whether their symptoms are life-threatening, they can contact their PCP or visit an urgent care center for evaluation. If appropriate, the provider may refer them to the ER for further treatment.

RYAN: Do most insurances cover urgent care visits? What about Medicare and Medicaid?

AMBER: WellNow accepts many insurances, including Medicare and Medicaid. We also work with all insurance companies to submit claims on your behalf. Cost should never hinder access to quality healthcare, which is why we also offer competitive self-pay rates for those without insurance. Patients should check directly with their insurance companies for details about their coverage, as plans can vary.

RYAN: Do I need an appointment for urgent care visits? How long is the typical wait?

AMBER: Patients can simply walk into any WellNow location, or if preferred, reserve a time online at WellNow.com. We have centers across South Central Michigan: our Battle Creek center is located at 25 Columbia Avenue East and our Kalamazoo center is located at 1634 Gull Rd.

Patients are typically seen within 10 minutes of registration upon arrival and are usually treated and on their way home within 45 minutes. Those who prefer to speak with a provider from the comfort of home can also start a virtual visit 24/7 from their personal computer, tablet or smartphone.

RYAN: I am reluctant to give the COVID pandemic positive credit for anything, but…I do think that people of all ages have been more willing to try virtual visits over the past 4 years. Hopefully that is a positive thing as it can increase access to care, decrease waiting time, and lessen exposure of illness for others.

RYAN: I see that many Urgent Care companies also promote doing Occupational Medicine. What is that?

AMBER: Occupational Medicine helps workplaces keep their employees healthy and safe, which improves overall success and productivity. WellNow is proud to partner with employers across a broad range of industries to develop custom solutions that fit their unique business needs. Examples of occupational medicine services include pre-employment physicals, drug and alcohol screening, Workers’ Compensation assistance, and more.

RYAN: Are there any myths about urgent care that you wish could be debunked?

AMBER: Many people who haven’t been to an urgent care center don’t realize that they are an increasingly important part of the healthcare ecosystem. Not only does urgent care help alleviate the strain on overburdened emergency rooms; it also makes care more accessible in healthcare deserts and communities where there is a shortage of primary care providers.

Urgent care centers provide the community with much-needed access to quality care with shorter wait times and lower costs than the traditional emergency room. Patients can be treated right away without having to go to the emergency department, where they’ll face long wait times and an expensive bill.

My thanks to Amber and WellNow Urgent Care for providing insight into this area of healthcare. Please discuss this topic more with your Primary Care Provider and contact sphere of friends of family. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with both the Urgent Care Centers and Emergency Departments in your area so that you have a plan BEFORE an urgent or emergency occurs.

Author(s): Ryan Miller, Associate Director of Marketing & Enrollment at Senior Care Partners PACE with Amber Davenport, PA-C, Regional Clinical Director at WellNow Urgent Care.

Keeping PACE – Urgency versus Emergency - Senior Care Partners P.A.C.E. (2024)

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