Sick After Hours? How to Navigate Your Health Care Options

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Sick After Hours? How to Navigate Your Health Care Options

By Arielle Levin Becker |

So you’re coming down with some sort of bug, and it’s Saturday afternoon – when your doctor’s office is closed.

If you want some medical help but don’t need a trip to the emergency room, there are options aplenty: You could try that urgent care center down the road. There’s the clinic in the back of the drug store. You could try one of the new online services that let you videoconference a doctor.

But what will you get from each of them? How do you decide where to go? And what does the proliferation of “convenience care” facilities mean for health care?

“The urgent care capacity in Connecticut has kind of exploded,” said Dr. Peter Bowers, medical director at Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

Proponents say that means patients now have more options for care at any time. That can help them avoid going to the emergency room for non-emergencies – and get care with less wait and at lower cost.

But some say there are tradeoffs. Some physician groups have raised concerns that the use of convenience care facilities leads to more fragmented care. Others have noted that the facilities are more likely to be built in higher-income areas, rather than places where more people already struggle to access care.

And even with multiple options available, it can still be challenging for patients to figure out which is best for their particular symptoms, noted the authors of a 2015 report on retail clinics and urgent care centers in New York.

“Patients must navigate this rapidly changing world of ambulatory care services with limited information, at a time when symptoms and concerns about their health are already creating stress,” they wrote.

Here’s a look at the options and advice from experts on how to handle non-emergency after-hours medical needs.

Know what’s what

For starters, it helps to know the difference between the various options.

In Connecticut, there’s no formal definition of what an urgent care facility or retail clinic is; they’re all licensed as outpatient medical facilities. (That could change; Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration has proposed creating a separate license for urgent care facilities.)

But experts and trade associations generally refer to them based on certain distinctions.

Retail clinics are generally located in other facilities; think CVS’ MinuteClinics or Walgreens’ healthcare clinics. They’re often… FOR READ MORE CLICK HERE

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April 6, 2017

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