The emergency room is your best option if:
- You feel your life is in danger: For example, chest pains, seizures, can't breathe or head trauma.
- You need major care right away: For example, broken bones, major burns or heavy bleeding.
Think of the ER is a last resort for true emergencies that require immediate, specialized care.
If you have an issue that threatens your life or health, never wait. Call 911 or go straight to the nearest emergency room!
What to expect
Since the emergency room is built to deal with life-or-death situations, it's the most expensive and time-consuming care option you have.
In North Carolina, you'll wait 30 minutes on average until you first see a doctor in the ER.6 However, the typical visit ends up being a whopping 2 hours and 27 minutes in total!6 That's because the doctor is first looking to see if your life is in danger. If it's not, the doctor will often get pulled into caring for more critical patients first. And the more emergencies that come through the door—the more hours it'll take before you walk out of the ER.
Cost is also much different at the emergency room. Blue Cross NC members pay an average of $613 for an ER visit.4 That's 10 times more than urgent care—and 25 times more than a retail clinic!
Those dollars add up. So, the more we can choose the right care option—the more we can help lower health care costs for everyone. Plus, we'll be freeing up valuable ER resources to focus on helping those that truly need life-saving care!
Emergency care vs. your doctor's care
Some people think they'll get the best health care at the ER. But the truth is that for issues that aren't life-threatening or very severe, you'll get the best care at your doctor. Here's why:
- The ER's job is to make sure you survive: They measure success by whether you walk out the door. So their goal is to figure out what you DON'T have by ruling out life-threatening conditions. When you go in for a non-emergency, the ER typically only treats your symptoms—not what's actually causing those symptoms. And that raises the risk that the same problem (or a similar one) will happen again in the future.
- Your doctor is there to help you over the long haul: As your medical “home,” your doctor supports both your current health and your future wellbeing. They'll not only treat the health problems you have today, but help you prevent them from happening again. And they will be in the best position to do that because they know your health history. Things like daily habits, medicines and family history play a big role in your health. So having a doctor that knows those things means you'll get personalized care that's best for you and your unique needs!