Top Tips From Medspring Urgent Care: When to Skip the ER

284906_152247341518522_5622324_nKnowing when to visit an Urgent Care Center will save you time and money. 

By: Jon Belsher, M.D., MedSpring Chief Medical Officer

Texas area emergency rooms are no stranger to the issue of overcrowding and long wait times.

For many people, the immediate reaction in the face of an illness or injury is to head for the ER. While appropriate when the patient’s life, limb or vision is endangered, most ER visits could be addressed much faster and at a lower cost in an urgent care center.

Urgent care centers offer quality care for non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries when your primary care doctor can’t treat you right away or if you don’t have a doctor in the area. Knowing when you can avoid an emergency room visit will make your treatment both less time consuming and less costly.

When to visit an Urgent Care Center:

Minor Accidents
Many urgent care centers are staffed by doctors supported by digital X-rays. Some examples of a minor accident include: sprains or strains, puncture wounds, scrapes and cuts, and broken bones.

Minor illnesses can pop up overnight, especially during the winter and spring seasons. With on-site lab equipment, urgent care physicians can quickly diagnose infections, colds and other illnesses. Some examples of a minor illness include: coughs and sore throats, ear/eye infections, fever or flu-like symptoms, diarrhea and headaches. Flu Shots. Urgent care centers are an easy and convenient resource for flu shots. Walk-ins are welcome and no appointments are necessary for treatment or vaccines.

Student physicals
During the summer and back-to-school months, getting an appointment with your primary care or family practice doctor can be especially challenging. Urgent care centers conduct physicals for sports teams, summer camps or schools and no appointments are necessary.
Additionally, while co-pays vary by insurance provider, urgent care patients can expect to pay $35 to $50, compared to typical ER co-pays of $100 to $200 or more. For those with high-deductibles, the cost difference could be $1,000 or more. Additionally, compared to the national average emergency room visit of more than four hours, many urgent care visits last less than an hour.

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 (1) This is what you typically pay if you have met your deductible. In addition to the initial co-pay at the ER, you will usually receive additional bills from the doctors and others. The urgent care bill includes everything.

(2) This is what you typically pay if you have not met your deductible for the year. Note: if you are self-insured, the savings is usually more.

Company and Milliman & Company data for Texas, adjusted for discounts & severity.

If you are experiencing a non-emergency accident or illness and want to avoid the emergency room, consider visiting a local MedSpring Urgent Care Center for quality care and a time-efficient experience.

For more information about MedSpring Urgent Care, please visit

About MedSpring Urgent Care

MedSpring Urgent Care operates centers in Austin, Chicago, and Houston that deliver quality care and exceptional service. For more information, including patient reviews and savings compared to an ER, please visit our website or find us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Author, Dr. Belsher

MedSpring’s clinical team is led by Chief Medical Officer, Jon L. Belsher, M.D., board certified in both Critical Care and Internal Medicine. Dr. Belsher received his training at UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, TX and at the Mayo Clinic in both Scottsdale, AZ and Rochester, MN. Dr. Belsher was formerly a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air National Guard where he was the chief of Aerospace Medicine at the Air National Guard’s largest medical unit.