When you or someone in your family is injured or feels ill with symptoms of COVID-19 or other illnesses, it is a decision you want to make quickly to decide what type of medical care you should seek.
But going directly to the emergency room may not be the best option.
Options for emergency clinics, such as OSF PromptCare and OSF OnCall Urgent Care, which have walk-in clinics and virtual visits, may be a better choice for care. These treatment options are most appropriate if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and need testing.
OSF also offers instant connections through Clare, our digital assistant, available at osfhealthcare.org. Clare can help guide you to the right level of care you need.
Emergency room or emergency care?
“If you believe you have a life-threatening injury or illness, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room,” said Brandi Clark, Vice President of On Demand Services at OSF HealthCare. “If you do not believe that your concern is life-threatening, then one of our acute treatment options may be a better choice. The emergency room triages patients based on the severity of their illness or injury and should not be used for non-life-threatening problems. The emergency room should be reserved for the most serious situations. “
Megan Brennan, Director of Hospitalist, Emergency and Diagnostic Medicine at OSF HealthCare agrees, saying people should use their best judgment.
“If you experience mild or prolonged symptoms, consider an emergency clinic. If it is something that can be life-threatening, go to the emergency room,” she said. “If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness, especially if it is severe, and if you have a complicated medical history, you should come to the emergency room. “
You have options!
Brandi explains that OSF HealthCare has created care options – such as OSF PromptCare and OSF OnCall Urgent Care walk-in clinics and virtual visits – to better meet the needs of people today.
“OSF has responded to changes in patient preferences to have more on-demand treatment options and locations for convenience and speed,” she said. “These are cheaper options for serving those with minor care issues.
“We know that patients’ wishes and needs in terms of healthcare are changing. The development of our new acute care model – OSF OnCall Urgent Care – was a response to the ever-changing healthcare environment,” she said. OSF HealthCare’s commitment to meeting individuals where they are on their health journey. “
What are the benefits of emergency treatment?
Brandi offers that acute treatment is a better option for non-life-threatening problems for several reasons.
“First, a patient’s deductible is much lower,” she said. “Secondly, you can expect to experience significantly shorter waiting times. It is not uncommon for patients with non-acute problems to experience a waiting time in an emergency department, as care teams there respond to life-threatening needs of other emergency patients, while they can expect to conduct an emergency care visit at an OSF OnCall Urgent Care, for example in about 30 minutes. ”
Megan agrees that cost and waiting times are significant benefits of seeking care at an emergency room.
In addition, she said that seeking care outside the emergency department reduces a patient’s potential exposure to more sick people, and emergency clinics offer more convenient locations.
That Emergency room is the best place to treat serious and life-threatening conditions such as:
- Chest pain (especially if it radiates to your arm or jaw or is accompanied by sweating, vomiting or shortness of breath)
- Blurred vision, sudden dizziness, weakness or loss of coordination or balance, sudden severe headache
- Broken bones or displaced joints
- Head or eye injuries
- High fever with rash (or fever in a newborn)
- Severe abdominal pain
- Uncontrolled bleeding
Acute clinics – such as OSF PromptCare and OSF OnCall Urgent Care – offer extended opening hours for walk-in visits and virtual visits. They can be used if your condition is not life-threatening but needs to be taken care of immediately. Conditions that can be treated include:
- COVID-19 symptoms require testing
- Colds or flu symptoms
- Foreign body in the eye or nose
- Insect bite
- Minor allergic reactions
- Minor burns or bruising
- Minor fractures
- Rash or poison ivy
- Scratches or minor cuts
- Skin complaints
- Sore throat
- Sprains or breaks
- Urinary tract infections
- Upper respiratory tract infections
Still not sure?
Both Brandi and Megan point out that OSF HealthCare has other ways to help patients determine the level of care they need.
OSF OnCall Urgent Care virtual visits provide 24/7 healthcare via your computer, tablet or smartphone. A board-certified provider can diagnose and recommend treatment for a number of minor illnesses and injuries.
And there’s Clare.
“Clare, our digital assistant, is well-designed to ensure that patients are directed to the most appropriate treatment environment,” Brandi said. “Patients simply click on Clare in the lower right corner of osfhealthcare.org and she will ask them through a series of questions to determine where to turn for care.”
Find care near you
To find an emergency clinic near you, click here. And always, if it’s an emergency, call 911.