Even the most stouthearted and courageous among us need to see a doctor from time to time. The challenge is knowing exactly when that time has come. FierceHealthcare reports:

More than 70 percent of emergency department visits from patients with employer-sponsored insurance coverage are for nonemergency conditions or conditions preventable through outpatient care, according to a new report from Truven Health Analytics.

That is no better than the number of the uninsured. What this tells us is that people have no idea when a medical concern is an actual emergency. Some percentage of these emergency department visitors must know that their issue is not an emergency. But they may not be able to get a timely appointment with a family doctor or general practitioner.

The confusion is compounded when urgent care facilities are taken into account. Is your problem general practice, urgent, or an emergency? Urgent care is the funny middle option that cuts out the appointment issue but stops short of getting you the full battery of tests you think you need. Here’s how you can know when Urgent care is the right option for you:

When You’re Not Sure It Is an Emergency

If you have time to wonder if it is an emergency, it may not be an emergency. A true emergency leaves you no time to wonder.

  1. You can’t stop the bleeding.
  2. The pain is unbearable.
  3. You are having trouble breathing.
  4. Your vision or hearing is fading.

These are the types of things that leave you with little doubt about your status. If you don’t see a doctor right away, something very bad is sure to happen. That’s an emergency. Fortunately, most medical problems are not quite that clear cut. How much bleeding are we talking about? Is the pain really unbearable? Are you exhausted from a workout? Or are you having trouble breathing? You get the idea.

In Northern California, many of these issues can be settled by a new Fresno urgent care system that works almost like an Apple Store Genius appointment, except by phone. It is a same-day appointment based around your schedule. It is perfect for those times when you have the luxury of wondering if it is an emergency.

Plush Care and other urgent care facilities are great intermediate stages because they provide a stopgap for when you cannot get in to see your doctor. And if you are having an emergency, the doctor can still instruct you to go to the nearest emergency department. In general, if you have time to ask, go to an Urgent care.

If Money is a Concern

No one wants to get stuck with a $1,000 emergency department bill if the visit proves to be unnecessary. Your doctor can’t see you for another eight weeks. And you only have about $50 to deal with the problem.

Depending on your insurance, you may only be responsible for a co-pay. The price of an urgent care visit is a tiny fraction of the cost of an emergency department visit. For many people, that is the difference between whether or not they see a doctor.

When All Else Fails

Sometimes, it is not about downgrading from the emergency department. It may be about escalating from your doctor. You have seen your doctor. You have followed all of her advice. You are implementing all the health change suggestions you can. But nothing is working.

At that point, it may be time to escalate to urgent care. It is an inexpensive way to get a second opinion. A person who looks at rashes all day may have a different take on what might be causing yours.

Your family doctor and the emergency department at a hospital are not the only two options you have for dealing with medical concerns. When you have the luxury of considering your options, When money is tight, and when all else fails, there is always urgent care.