It's late, your child is in visible pain and you're unsure whether the condition will worsen overnight. Most pediatricians practice standard business hours, while a hospital's emergency room can come with long wait times and a sizable bill. Thankfully, urgent care facilities are emerging as an attractive alternative for parents seeking after-hours treatment for non-life-threatening illnesses.
"In hospital emergency departments, many of which are overwhelmed by patients seeking help for non-life-threatening problems, waits are often hours and costs are high," said Dr. Jill Ratner, a pediatrician and assistant medical director at CareMount Medical. For children especially, a visit to the emergency room isn't always necessary. In fact, a recent study determined that upper respiratory infections, fever and otitis media -- the three most common childhood diagnoses -- are all rated as lower severity.
"The true difference, however, is cost," said Ratner. "Hospital emergency charges can be as much as five times higher than those of urgent care centers for treating the same conditions."
Because illness or injury can occur at the most inconvenient times, knowing what to do in advance is the best defense. "Contact your pediatrician’s office and find out how to reach your doctor after hours," said Ratner. "Obtaining advice from the person who knows your child’s health best is a good first step." At CareMount Medical, pediatric offices routinely offer early morning, evening and weekend hours. Ratner also recommends keeping a record of a child’s allergies and past medical procedures to bring when seeking treatment.
Generally, Ratner recommends visiting an urgent care for any issue that would normally require a visit to the doctor. "Take your child to an urgent care center if you cannot get to see your pediatrician for problems such as ear pain, upper respiratory illness, fever, sore throat or minor injuries, such as a sprained ankle or laceration," she said. For more serious conditions such as a gaping wound, broken bones, traumatic injury or loss of consciousness, she recommends visiting an emergency department.
For more information on the services offered by CareMount Medical, click here.