When someone you love is injured or seriously ill, it’s important to act fast. You don’t have time to wonder,  “Should we go to the ER or urgent care?” The COVID-19 pandemic makes it more important than ever to be prepared for a healthcare emergency. Getting the best care in a crisis depends on a variety of factors, such as: when and where a patient seeks care, effective communication between patient and provider, and selecting the best approaches to treatment. This pandemic has spotlighted the challenges and failures of our medical system, but you can navigate them effectively by planning ahead. 

With decades of experience in hospital care, the team at Better Health Advisors understands the nuances of accessing the best treatment and how COVID-19 affects those decisions. A good rule of thumb is that ERs are more suited than urgent care for life-threatening health problems or may require hospitalization. Unfortunately, there has been a significant drop in emergency visits since the start of the pandemic, and this is problematic as avoiding or delaying care can cause additional health issues. Please know that even in a pandemic, ERs are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and urgent care facilities remain open to help you. 

Here is BHA’s guide for navigating emergency care during COVID-19:


Why Visit the ER?

When someone is in a critical state, the Emergency Room is usually the best option, even though it can be more expensive than urgent care. If necessary, call 911 for an ambulance. 

Reasons to Visit the ER:

  • Broken bones protruding from the skin
  • Chest pain
  • Constant vomiting
  • Continuous bleeding
  • Deep wounds that may require stitches (especially on the face)
  • Dislocated joints
  • Fainting or unconsciousness
  • Fevers accompanied by a rash
  • Fevers in infants
  • Head or eye injuries
  • Poisoning
  • Seizures (without a previous epilepsy diagnosis)
  • Serious burns
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Stroke (symptoms include vision loss, sudden numbness, weakness, slurred speech and confusion)
  • Suicidal or homicidal feelings
  • Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy
  • Weakness or pain in an arm or leg

Recent Decline in ER Visits: 

According to the CDC, emergency department visits have dropped 42% since the pandemic began. ERs had an increase in respiratory cases, such as pneumonia and difficulty breathing, but fewer superficial injuries and chest pains. If you’re tempted to delay or avoid seeking treatment because of COVID-19 fears, don’t put your healthcare on hold. ERs are taking extra precautions to keep patients safe from COVID-19, and they are ready to help you. 

Why Visit Urgent Care?

Think of urgent care as a gentler alternative to the ER that provides care during minor emergencies. If your primary care doctor doesn’t have an appointment available and you need to be seen quickly, go to an urgent care facility, which often has flexible, extended hours. Typically, urgent care visits are covered by insurance plus a co-pay. If paying out-of-pocket, the average cost is about $150 for a basic evaluation and treatment; costs are menu driven for additional services, such as X-rays, strep tests, or IV fluids.

Reasons to Visit Urgent Care: 

  • Animal and bug bites
  • Coughing and sore throat
  • Cuts and scrapes
  • Ear infections
  • Flu and cold symptoms
  • Immunizations such as flu shots
  • Mild fevers (Adults)
  • Minor burns
  • Pink eye or other minor eye problems
  • Rashes (without a fever)

Better Health Advisors recognizes that COVID-19 has upended our way of life. Even in these chaotic times, it is crucial to plan for your healthcare needs in advance. Don’t wait for an emergency. Take time now to work with a health advisor, assess your healthcare needs, and establish a plan that will help you stay healthy—now and long after the pandemic is over.