Freestanding emergency rooms are becoming more commonplace. You can see them in just about every city these days, especially in Texas.
People who want to know what their options are when it comes to seeking emergency medical help may wonder how these facilities differ from an urgent care clinic.
Is there a difference between a freestanding emergency room and an urgent care clinic? The answer is Yes.
What are Freestanding Emergency Rooms?
Freestanding emergency rooms (ER) are ERs staffed by licensed doctors and nurses. They offer labs, x-rays, and medications on the premises, and can treat a wide variety of health conditions with ease.
However, they do differ from urgent care facilities in several key ways that could impact people’s decisions in how and where they seek medical care. These notable differences set freestanding emergency rooms apart from urgent care clinics.
Freestanding and Privately Owned
Freestanding ERs own up to their names in that they are not attached to any hospital like regular urgent care clinics. They genuinely are standing free of any hospital association and instead are often privately owned by physicians or healthcare companies. They are not governed by a university, county or a municipality as many hospital ERs are.
Transfer of Critical Patients
Because they are not attached to a hospital, freestanding emergency rooms cannot admit patients to the hospital. These facilities instead have transfer agreements with nearby hospitals and can call an ambulance for a critically ill patient who needs to be admitted or have surgery done. The ambulance can then transfer the patient to the nearest hospital for further treatment.
Because these facilities cannot admit critically ill people or do surgery, they typically see people with acute illnesses like strep throat or lacerations. These conditions generally do not require a lot of time to treat, which helps people get in and out quickly.
People who choose freestanding ERs often have less of a wait time and can get help they need sooner. They do not have to wait for hours like they might in an urgent care clinic.
Slightly Higher Cost
Many of these locations are privately owned by physicians or companies. Because of that, they do not receive government subsidizing. This lack of government funding typically translates into slightly higher bills for patients.
In comparison to urgent care clinics, freestanding emergency rooms tend to be a bit more expensive. Some insurers may be unwilling or unable to cover some of these expenses. Nonetheless, many people find the cost of their care a fair trade-off because they were able to get quality help faster and could have their condition treated by qualified doctors and nurses.
Limitations on Insurance Acceptance
While these ERs typically take most private insurance, they often do not bill Medicare or Medicaid. People with Medicare or Medicaid will still have to go to an urgent care for help.
Many government forms of insurance, such as these two forms, are only willing to pay for the lowest costs of service. Even more, they often have low reimbursement rates, which could cause a freestanding ER to lose money. As such, people with this form of insurance must go to a hospital-based ER for help.
These differences set freestanding facilities apart from their hospital-based counterparts. However, people who are still unsure of whether or not to seek care from one of these locations should understand what kinds of health conditions can be treated there. Some of the more common conditions that can be treated at a freestanding ER include:
- Cuts and Bruises
- Strep Throat
- Heart Attack
- Low Blood Sugar
- Animal Bites
- Fractures and Sprains
- Back Aches
While they cannot do surgery or admit people to the hospital, freestanding ERs can provide the fast and competent care that people need to start feeling better. These locations can prescribe antibiotics, administer breathing treatments, cast broken bones and perform other lifesaving treatments that are found in other emergency rooms.
Urgent care clinics and freestanding emergency rooms differ in several important ways. These differences can help people decide if or when to seek medical care there.