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Virtual Care vs Urgent Care vs. Emergency Care – Where Do I Go?

by | Aug 15, 2022 | Articles, Health Insurance | 0 comments

Virtual care or tele-healthcare is not exactly new around here, but Covid-19 made it more prevalent, and healthcare facilities around the world have escalated its importance.

Having said that, is virtual care the hot new thing that will replace healthcare delivery as we know it?

What about urgent care facilities or going to the emergency room? Naturally, if you’re in a life-threatening situation, or actively bleeding, you should be rolled into the emergency room immediately.

But when you’re unsure, where do you go first?

Which option do you take, considering your healthcare insurance plan and your immediate need?

Ask yourself these questions when you’re not sure where to go – virtual, urgent care or the emergency room:

1. Is there an imminent risk?

The emergency room environment was created to treat critical and catastrophic medical conditions FAST. If something needs to be taken care of immediately and there is a question of life and death or a surgical procedure or any cases of unstoppable active bleeding, that is when you should seek care in an emergency room. 

When working in an emergency room environment, patients come in with critical conditions and are oftentimes unable to provide detailed medical histories. Without key components of knowing what happened, when it happened and how it happened, it’s difficult to make an accurate diagnosis. For this lack of information and time urgency, providers have to order and run a plethora of tests to find a diagnosis by a process of exclusion. For this reason, even though diagnosis and treatment may be simple and clear; running several tests to diagnose by exclusion causes higher billed services and higher medical out-of-pocket expenses for the patient. 

2. Is your “urgent care” practitioner available?

Urgent care is a great alternative to the emergency room. They are typically open late and open on weekends and holidays for non-emergency cases. 

In fact, it was created due to the unnecessary burden or non-catastrophic issues in emergency rooms that were causing severe delays and hindering care for patients who were at risk of death. Common conditions that used to be treated in emergency rooms but are now better treated in urgent care environments. They include UTIs, ear or sinus infections, stomach aches, ear aches,  minor cuts and lacerations, etc. They typically will have an X-ray on site and now most of them have Covid-19 testing, too.

If your usual primary care provider is not available and you have one of the issues that I’ve listed above, then your nearest urgent care should be where you should head to. 

3. Could speaking to a virtual care doctor ease your concerns?

Before you consider your urgent care facility, consider telehealth/telemedicine or virtual care via an app on your phone or interactive web platform. 

Virtual care saves a lot of time and money. Anything you think you can go to urgent care for, but hesitate to or are not able to, use virtual care instead!

Virtual care providers are trained to treat common conditions and send prescriptions. This can be done from the comfort of your home, without the need to expose yourself to germs in a waiting room. It’s a far more effective method. Common conditions treated via virtual care are headaches, stomachaches, ear infections, yeast infections, UTIs and routine medication refills. Use your telemedicine app or service as the first line of defense for your medical needs. 

My personal experience using this service has been phenomenal every time!

4. Could your treatment be done at a smaller local facility?

There are some imaging services and lab tests that are done just as effectively at smaller local specialized facilities but at much lower rates than in an emergency room environment. For example, don’t get a mammogram at an ER. Get it at a radiology and imaging center whose core purpose is diagnostic mammograms. Another example is lab work. Opt to get lab work done at big network labs such as Quest or Labcoprb, rather than an ER that may bill higher for the same test due to the urgent time turnaround for the results. 

The health insurance perspective

Where do you go and when you should go there?

For example, you cut your hand and you’re bleeding. Where should you go? Emergency room or urgent care? I recommend heading to an urgent care center. 


To MINIMIZE this out-of-pocket expenditure. Say in this cut situation, you know you just need to be stitched up, go to an urgent care for that particular service instead of going to an emergency room where you will probably get billed more, as mentioned above. When you’re billed less, your insurance benefit will stretch further and this will reduce your out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. 

Also read: 4 Ways to Reduce Medical Spending During Periods of High Inflation

Watch this video for more information

I share more details on the difference between urgent care and emergency care and how it ties in with your healthcare policy or out-of-pocket costs in this video so give it a watch!

Have any specific questions about where you should go for your health concerns? Not sure how to pay less out-of-pocket for your medical expenses? Schedule a chat with me to discuss your health insurance needs.

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