Which clinic you should go to when sick or injured

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Should people use the emergency room, InstaCare, or Connect Care when you’re sick? Knowing the right answer can save you considerable time and money.
Dr. Mark Ott, Intermountain Medical Center Medical Director, shared information about where is the best place to go to get the appropriate care as Utah hits the peak of cold and flu season, hospitals and doctors.
Offices are crowded with patients, and many people are wondering which clinic is best for their situation. If you can’t get an appointment with your primary care physician, or if you don’t have one, it’s common to turn to the emergency room for help. However, for many illnesses and injuries, patients can get the same care at a lower cost, and get it faster by turning to an urgent care clinic, such as InstaCare, or telehealth service, such as Connect Care.
He explained that the average cost of an ER visit in the U.S. is $1,917, according to a 2016 study by the Health Care Cost Institute. Now Intermountain’s Connect Care service allows people to talk with a clinician on a computer or mobile device for $49 or less.
So where should you go? People should go to an ER if they experience chest pain or pressure, severe bleeding, a head injury, or trouble breathing. Urgent care would be better for less critical issues such as cough, fever, and other illness. 
Information on each service provided by Intermountain Healthcare:
Connect Care
Connect Care is designed for common, low-level, urgent care concerns and can be accessed 24/7 from anywhere using a mobile device or computer with a camera and video-streaming capabilities.
Frequently treated conditions include sinus pain, stuffy and runny nose, sore throat, eye infections, urinary tract infection, lower back pain, and bronchitis. If a Connect Care provider feels that your medical issue cannot be adequately diagnosed or treated by a video visit and requires immediate in-person evaluation, the provider will direct you to in-person care and waive your Connect Care fee. 
  • Cost: $49
  • Covered by many insurance plans, including Medicaid check with your insurer to determine coverage and copay. Medicare does not cover this service.
  • Best for common, non-life-threatening conditions
  • Adult and pediatric care.
  • Care provided by board-certified advanced practice clinicians (nurse practitioners and physicians assistants)
  • Can prescribe most types of medications if needed, but not controlled substance medications.
  • Does not provide lab services, imaging, or other tests
  • 24/7 access from anywhere on a mobile device or computer
InstaCare or KidsCare
Intermountain InstaCares provide care through licensed physicians and specialized staff to handle non-life-threatening urgent care needs, from sore throats and illnesses to cuts or broken bones. KidsCares specialize in urgent care for pediatric patients. 
  • Cost: Varies
  • Covered by many insurance plans, check with your insurer to determine coverage and copay
  • Covered by Medicare and Medicaid
  • Best for common, non-life-threatening conditions
  • Care provided by board-certified physicians and specialized staff
  • Can prescribe medication
  • Offer lab services, X-rays, and some outpatient tests
  • Access at physical location. Most InstaCares are open as early as 8 a.m. and close at 8 or 9 p.m., though some have extended hours as late as midnight. KidsCares are generally open from 4 or 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., with variable weekend hours.
  • The website also lists InstaCare and KidsCare locations nearby and estimated wait times. Patients can also use the site to sign up on a waiting list before they arrive.

Emergency Room
Intermountain emergency rooms are open 24/7 and is staffed with doctors, nurses, and technicians who are specially trained to handle potentially severe and/or life-threatening conditions.

  • Cost: Varies
  • Covered by all insurance plans in emergencies
  • Covered by Medicare and Medicaid
  • Best for potential limb, functional or life-threatening conditions
  • Care provided by board-certified emergency physicians, nurses, technicians, and support staff
  • Can prescribe medication
  • Offers lab services, X-rays, specialized care, and tests (both inpatient and outpatient)
  • 24/7 access at a physical location 
According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, you should visit the ER if you have any of these warning signs:
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Severe headache or head injury
  • Severe bleeding
  • Sudden or severe pain
  • Coughing blood or vomiting blood
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Sudden dizziness, weakness, or changes in vision
  • Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Changes in mental status, such as confusion or weakness
  • Evaluation of an assault, physical or sexual abuse, or child abuse.
  • Severe infection
  • Complications of early pregnancy
  • Abdominal pain that is severe or with repeated and persistent vomiting
Intermountain Healthcare has also made it easy for people to find the medical services closest to them by typing in their zip code at intermountainhealthcare.org.
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