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Should You Go to the Emergency Room?

Non-emergency: How to Find the Right Doctor

Should You Go to the Emergency Room?

If you go to an Emergency room, it will usually cost much more than it would to be seen in a doctor’s office or urgent care!

Some problems are so severe that they should be managed in the emergency room.  If the problem is very severe (such as severe chest pain), rapidly worsening or appears to be progressively limiting the ability to breathe, speak, stay conscious, move about or move an extremity, then you probably need to be seen in the emergency room.  Dial 911 for true emergencies or have a family member or friend drive you to the nearest emergency room.  While it certainly may be necessary to use Emergency Medical Services (911), these transport services are very costly!

If you already know which doctor you want to see, you may be able to get advice over the phone about whether you need to go to the emergency room or where else you can be evaluated.

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Non-emergency: How to Find the Right Doctor

You can save a lot money if you are seen in a doctor's office or an urgent care rather than an emergency room.

At an urgent care, you likely will not see the same physician each time you visit; whereas, if you go to a doctor's office you can establish an ongoing relationship with that doctor for your future medical needs.  Remember, established patients typically pay significantly less for a visit than do new patients.

And, if you are seen by a physician and subsequently referred to another physician for the same problem, it will likely cost you more than twice what you would have paid had you gone to the right physician from the start.

The following steps may help you identify the most appropriate physician to see from the beginning.

  1. This web based PDF document from the American Board of Medical Specialties explains which specialists treat what kind of problems.  The American Board of Medical Specialties also lets one search for Board Certified specialist in your area and it has links to its member boards.

  2. If you can't identify a single specialty that seems appropriate, you may want to see an Internal Medicine (adults), Family Practice (adults and children), or Pediatric (children and adolescents) physician.  These are often referred to as primary care specialties.  They treat many problems themselves and are skilled at referring patients to the most appropriate specialists to manage more complex problems.

  3. Using the online tools, locate Board Certified physicians in you area.  Call their offices and confirm that the doctor can likely manage your particular problem and, if appropriate what the approximate cost of a first-time visit for your problem might be and whether they offer cash discounts

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