When you or a loved one is feeling less than your best, it’s often unexpected. If you believe your condition or injury to be life-threatening, you should visit the nearest emergency room or call 911. If your situation is not an emergency, but you need help outside of business hours, or you can’t get an appointment with your primary care provider, you should try an urgent care clinic or an AnMed E-Visit. In the event that your condition or situation is mild or related to a chronic illness (so long as the issue is not critical), it may be wisest to visit your primary care physician.
Below, we’ll present some critical differences among primary care, urgent care and emergency room services. Get back to feeling your best faster by determining the purposes of each and establishing which one is most suitable for your situation.
- Primary care
- Pros and cons of primary care
- Primary care costs
- Urgent care
- Pros and cons of urgent care
- Urgent care costs
- Emergency room
- Pros and cons of emergency room
- Emergency room costs
A primary care physician is someone whom a patient would typically see for a pre-scheduled annual check-up. Many primary care physicians have long-term working relationships with their patients and have helped them through new seasons of growth and life.
Primary care practices are designed to be a place where patients receive continuing care service and medical intervention throughout their life. A primary care physician will typically understand the medical history of their patients in detail and follow that patient’s health progression over time.
A patient should seek out primary care services for the treatment of both long-term and acute illnesses. Acute illnesses may include:
- Minor cuts
- Common cold symptoms
A primary care appointment would also be appropriate for patients who are dealing with chronic illnesses. Examples of these include but aren’t limited to:
- Thyroid disorders
- Cholesterol management
Primary care is a one-stop resource for preventative health solutions, too. General health screenings, eye exams and lab work all happen in a primary care medical facility.
The AnMed Physician Network Services has many primary care locations throughout Anderson and Pickens counties in South Carolina and Hart County in Georgia.
Pros and cons of primary care
One of the biggest benefits of primary care services is consistency. If you’re already an established patient with your primary care physician, it’s simple to make an appointment and show up at your designated time without having to wait long for care.
Scheduling an appointment with a primary care physician can also save time on finding solutions. Your physician likely already has a clear understanding of underlying health conditions and your medical history, meaning you don’t have to review those topics before dealing with the issue at hand.
One of the disadvantages of primary care is that it can be inconvenient during urgent situations. Primary care facilities generally run exclusively during normal business hours. This means if a medical issue arises outside of that timeframe, a patient will need to find care elsewhere.
It’s also important to remember that not all primary care establishments accept every type of insurance. It may be necessary to choose your physician according to your specific insurance network. Primary care is also not a solution for those facing life-threatening medical emergencies.
Primary care costs
Overall, primary care is generally considered the most cost-effective type of medical care when compared to urgent care or emergency room services. This is because patients are asked to pair their care with a specific insurance network in advance.
Under most primary care insurance plans, patients can expect to pay a portion of their expenses out of pocket, known as a co-pay, while the insurance company covers the bulk once a deductible has been met. A structured payment plan of this type allows patients to plan for medical expenses in advance and check with their insurance providers before meeting with their primary care physician or an associated specialist.
In many ways, urgent care acts as a bridge to primary care. Urgent care is the right choice for those patients who need primary care services outside of standard business hours or when their physician is unavailable.
It’s also an option for those who don’t have an established primary care physician or who are in between insurance options. Many patients utilize urgent care services when medical issues arise on the weekends.
Typically, urgent care physicians can treat all of the same acute conditions that would normally be attended to by a primary care physician. Some of the common conditions treated at an urgent care facility include:
- Sore throat
- Ear pain
- Cold symptoms
- Minor sprains
- Urinary tract infections
- Insect bites
- Minor burns
Any treatment received at an urgent care clinic should be discussed in a follow-up visit with your primary care physician. This allows for more streamlined care and for a primary care physician to have a clear picture of medical interventions happening beyond traditional appointments.
AnMed CareConnect is the name of our urgent care, with walk-in clinics in both Anderson and Clemson.
Pros and cons of urgent care
One of the biggest benefits of going to an urgent care facility is the flexibility of their operating hours. This can be extremely helpful for those faced with unexpected medical issues or those who can’t get in to see their doctor during the workday. At AnMed, patients can even save time by using MyCareConnectSpot.com to reserve an appointment slot.
Urgent care clinics also pair this scheduling flexibility with opportunities to meet with qualified physicians. These are professionals who can offer up everything a primary care physician can in the way of evaluation, diagnosis and prescriptions when needed.
The downside to visiting an urgent care clinic often lies in the triage process that accompanies it. Often, patients mistake urgent care services with those they should be receiving at emergency rooms for more life-threatening scenarios. When this happens, health care can get confusing as patients are referred to other facilities.
Because urgent care provides service only when it’s needed, the wait times associated with a visit can be exponentially longer than a patient would experience when scheduling an appointment with their primary care clinic. Expect to wait for care on a first-come, first-serve basis when urgent care services are required.
Urgent care costs
Urgent care clinics may be stand-alone facilities or linked to larger medical brand families. This means that prices can fluctuate drastically depending on where a patient goes to receive treatment.
When it comes to urgent care costs, it’s important to check with private insurance providers before making an appointment to discuss coverage options. When insurance isn’t available for urgent care services, many urgent care clinics provide transparent pricing for visits that can be provided upon request.
A visit to the emergency room is generally reserved for life-threatening medical emergencies or treatment following an accident. Emergency rooms are open day and night, providing patients with a place to come in the event they experience severe accidents or health emergencies such as:
- Second- through fourth-degree burns
- Broken bones
- Symptoms of a heart attack or stroke
- Severe abdominal pain
- Asthma attacks
- Car accident
- Head trauma
- Uncontrollable bleeding
Emergency rooms are staffed by physicians and staff well-trained in handling stressful and high-intensity medical emergencies. Patients needing immediate care and high-quality treatment can expect to receive it through emergency services.
AnMed provides emergency services at AnMed Medical Center in Anderson and AnMed Cannon in Pickens.
Pros and cons of emergency room care
For many people, just knowing the emergency room is an option when unexpected medical issues arise provides well-deserved peace of mind. There’s no need to worry about a primary care physician not being available when needed as an emergency room is always staffed.
Advanced imaging is easily accessible in emergency rooms and on-call physicians can administer medication and treatment in a timely manner. Emergency rooms are typically linked directly to hospitals, so patients know that if further care or emergency surgery is required, they’re already where they need to be.
Traditionally, the biggest downside to visiting the emergency room is the wait time. Emergency room physicians are tasked with handling the most life-threatening situations first, so patient care is prioritized rather than the order in which the patient arrived.
Additionally, many patients mistakenly turn to emergency care for medical services that could be handled at home or by an urgent care physician. This can cause an extreme backlog and hours-long wait times for everyone.
Emergency room costs
Emergency room services are by far the most expensive when compared to primary care or urgent care visits. A visit to the emergency room is considered highly specialized and comes with a price tag to reflect that level of customized care.
While some insurance policies cover a portion of emergency room services, it’s important to check in advance. The cost of emergency care is often increased in direct relationship to the cost hospitals face keeping these important areas open and staffed 24/7.
E-Visits, also known as remote or telehealth appointments, provide patients with yet another treatment option involving an online questionnaire and messages.
These visits are designed to save time and expedite care when patients are struggling with acute issues, such as:
- Back Pain
- COVID-19 Symptoms
- Insect stings
- Poison Ivy
- Red Eye
- Sinus Problems
- Swimmer's Ear
- Urinary Problems
- Vaginal Discharge/Irritation
After submitting the initial questionnaire, a provider may follow up with additional questions. Providers can also electronically submit a prescription to a preferred pharmacy. Many health groups, including AnMed, now offer E-Visits as a more convenient treatment option for patients who have minor health concerns.
When you use our E-Visit services, all you need to do is answer a few simple questions. Once your questionnaire is submitted, we will provide you with a treatment plan within a few hours in most instances.
Pros and cons of E-Visits
E-Visits are by far the most convenient appointment method available today and eliminate the need to waste hours in a waiting room, surrounded by other patients.
E-Visits are a more limited treatment option, however. Patients can show the attending provider physical symptoms via patient-provided photos. However, the provider cannot perform any diagnostic tests during the E-Visit. As such, this option should be reserved for minor, acute medical conditions, such as back pain, colds and fevers.
If a provider cannot confidently address a patient’s medical concern via the E-Visit, then they may suggest that they make an appointment with their doctor or go to urgent care or emergency room.
As with any other type of medical care, it is important that patients notify their primary care physicians about any E-Visit services that they receive. This is especially pertinent if the patient is prescribed any new medications.
Keep in mind that E-Visits are not suitable for medical emergencies. If you feel that you are experiencing a serious medical event, seek immediate treatment at your nearest emergency room or dial 911.
Cost of E-Visits
Since the scope of care available through E-Visits is limited, most charge a flat fee. For instance, AnMed charges only $20 for an E-Visit, regardless of insurance status. Many private insurance companies are beginning to incorporate E-Visits into their coverage options. Patients should check to see whether E-Visits are covered by their insurance provider before booking an appointment.
Proper and prompt medical care is an integral part of life. If you’re in need of medical attention, visit AnMed. AnMed offers access to primary, urgent, emergency care and E-Visits that patients can count on. You can even book your CareConnect urgent care appointment online at our Anderson urgent care or Clemson urgent care locations!
If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the following symptoms, call 911 right away:
- Chest pain or pressure
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Upper abdominal pain or pressure
- Coughing or vomiting blood
- Heavy or uncontrollable bleeding
- Sudden or excessive pain
- Changes in vision
- Suicidal thoughts