Insights

Should I Go To Urgent Care or Primary Care?

Mira Research Team22 Feb 2021

Quick Digest

  • Since your doctor knows your medical history, it is best to call your primary care provider when in a non-emergency situation. However, if you cannot reach your primary care doctor, urgent care may be the best option.
  • The average urgent care visit costs patients $71-$125 for basic care. The average cost for a doctor’s visit without insurance varies between $300 and $600. Wait times vary for both urgent care and primary care visits.
  • Mira offers affordable urgent care visits at just $45/month. Learn more here.

You should always contact a medical provider when in an emergency situation. If your symptoms are severe or you are experiencing a medical emergency, you should call 911 and go to an emergency room. 

Should I visit the urgent care center or my primary care doctor?

When to visit your primary care doctor

If possible, you should try to visit your doctor if you have a non-emergency situation. Seeing your primary care doctor is a great option since they know your medical history. 

Therefore, they may be able to advise you in the next steps for your care (ie. seeing a specialist). 

Your primary care doctor is also the best option when managing a chronic condition.

When to visit urgent care

However, if you are dealing with a more urgent situation, your doctor’s office is closed, or you cannot get an appointment, going to an urgent care facility may be the best option. Urgent care centers typically have flexible hours and are open on the weekends and some holidays. 

Urgent care facilities are a great option if you are experiencing manageable symptoms or need routine tests, going to urgent care may be the best option.

While all of the following services can be provided at an emergency room, it may be more convenient and cost-effective to visit an urgent care center. You may want to consider visiting an urgent care center for any of the following reasons:

  • Minor fractures
  • X-rays
  • Back pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Minor headaches
  • Blood work
  • Bumps, cuts, and scrapes
  • Fever- however, an ER might be more suitable for babies or toddlers
  • Ear or sinus pain
  • Vaccinations  
  • Cough or sore throat
  • Lab services
  • Animal bites
  • Stitches
  • Sprains and strains
  • Mild asthma
  • Foreign objects in the eyes or nose
  • Allergies
  • Rashes and minor burns
  • Burning with urination
  • Eye irritation, swelling, or pain
  • Minor allergic reactions
  • Cold or flu symptoms

What's more affordable, urgent care or primary care? 

The average urgent care visit costs patients $71-$125 for basic care. Patients may incur additional costs for shots, x-rays, and labs. 

The cost for both an urgent care or emergency room visit will largely depend on the following factors:

  • Medications you received during your visit
  • Injections or IVs
  • Tests and x-rays
  • Casts for broken bones

In general, going to urgent care is significantly less expensive when compared to the emergency room.

The average cost for a doctor’s visit without insurance varies between $300 and $600, depending on your location and the level of care or services you need. 

What conditions do urgent care and primary care treat? 

Urgent care clinics handle many of the same conditions as a primary doctor’s clinic such as: 

  • When you’re feeling ill
  • When you need basic shots such as the flu vaccine
  • Getting your prescription refilled
  • If you need tests done (such as x-rays)

Under some circumstances, you should consider your primary care physician over an urgent care center; as primary care, doctors can understand your medical history, and help you manage chronic or pre-existing conditions.  

Which has a longer wait?

When it comes to waiting times, primary care may be quicker when compared to urgent care

Urgent care centers are able to see walk-in patients within 15-45 minutes; however, with many urgent care clinics conducting Covid-19 testing, the wait time may now be significantly longer.

In the United States, it takes an average of 24 days to schedule a first-time visit with a doctor. The average wait time in a doctor’s office is just about 18 minutes. 

Avoiding surprise fees when visiting an urgent care center or primary care

Understanding what might appear on your bill and advocating for yourself during the billing process is essential to saving money. Outlined below are several questions you can ask the team at the urgent care clinic or the doctor’s office that might help you save money.

  • How much is the total out-of-pocket cost?
  • How much are the services I’m receiving today?
  • How much is the treatment I’m receiving?
  • Are there administrative fees or fees for seeing a provider?
  • Is one type of medicine cheaper than another?
  • Is one type of diagnostic test cheaper than another?
  • What are my alternatives?

What if I can’t afford urgent care or primary care?

If you are unable to afford a visit to an urgent care center or a visit to the doctor, Mira could be the best option for you.

With Mira, your $99 co-pay will cover your entire urgent care visit. For just $45 a month, you can visit any of the urgent care clinics in-network and get access to affordable lab tests, 80% off prescriptions, and more!

Sources:

https://plushcare.com/blog/doctors-for-patients-without-insurance-2/#:~:text=Without%20health%20insurance%20the%20average,the%20type%20of%20doctor's%20office.

https://www.bcbs.com/articles/know-where-go-how-choose-between-doctors-office-urgent-care-and-er

https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/practices/ppatients-switched-doctors-long-wait-times-vitals#:~:text=In%20comparison%2C%2053%25%20of%20people,office%20due%20to%20long%20waits.&text=Wait%20times%20on%20average%20dropped,at%2018%20minutes%2C%2013%20seconds.

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