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Emergency room alternatives

Posted On Tue, August 9, 2011

A recent study conducted by the journal Health Affairs found that about 17 percent of all emergency room visits could have taken place at considerably less expensive alternatives like urgent care centers and retail clinics. According to CNBC, changing this amount of ER visits could save the economy more than $4 billion each year.

ER visits are expensive, both for patients and insurers who may have to increase health insurance rates. According to WellPoint, an insurer may see a bill of $580 or more for a case of strep throat that is treated in an ER. An urgent care clinic may only charge $90 for the same treatment. CNBC notes that patients can expect co-pay charges of $100 or more for ER visits.

"The chance of you getting some tests which are going to increase your costs are pretty high in the emergency room simply because of the way we're set up and the standard to which we're held," Dr. William T. Durkin Jr. told the source.

Retail clinics that are staffed by nurse practitioners are a good alternative to ERs for minor health issues, and urgent care centers provide more extensive care for more serious ailments.

Sometimes it's necessary to go to the ER, and WebMD states that people experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, severe and uncontrolled bleeding or stroke symptoms should immediately head to the ER. 

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