Going to the ER for care? You may have other options.

By Regence
August 24, 2021
Emergency Room sign

The U.S. hospital system is in crisis again as hospital beds fill up with COVID-19 patients, leaving health care workers overwhelmed.

Hospitalization of COVID-19 patients is skyrocketing because of the highly contagious Delta variant and unvaccinated people. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S. has quadrupled in the past few weeks, and in some regions with low vaccination rates hospitalizations are reaching a record high. The combination of factors is straining our hospital system’s ability to provide care.

But what if you have an urgent health care need and think you need to go to the hospital? The good news is options like urgent care and virtual care may be a good alternative with less risk of exposure to COVID-19. If your health concern doesn’t require imaging or maybe you have experienced the symptoms before, urgent care and virtual care might be better for you—and it could save you time and money.

When to go where for care

People will often go to the emergency room (ER) because they don’t know about other options. Choosing urgent care or virtual care can save you time and money, and right now it’s a safer choice to prevent infection from COVID-19.

The ER is for serious, immediate health concerns. You should visit an ER if you experience major medical conditions. Visit Regence’s “Emergency room vs. Urgent care” page for examples.

Urgent care
An urgent care center can offer a shorter wait time and a less expensive visit than the ER for less serious, immediate health concerns.

Virtual care
You can also get care without leaving your home, offering added safety from exposure to COVID-19. Virtual care is available 24/7, 365 days a year, where you meet with a health care provider over the phone, text or video chat to address non-emergency issues including pink eye, insect bites, flu-like symptoms, achy joints, as well as mental health needs. You can also use virtual care for your annual visit with your primary care provider, so no need to skip this year.

Explore your options

If you still aren’t sure where to go, call your primary care provider. Your health plan may also provide you with access to the Advice 24 nurse line where you can get guidance on where to go.

Remember to choose an in-network doctor or urgent care center by using Find a Doctor. Using an out-of-network doctor or urgent care center will cost you more. Sign in to your account on regence.com or call us at the number on the back of your member ID card to explore your health plan benefits.

Remember to get your COVID-19 vaccine

The best way to keep yourself from getting severely ill or hospitalized from COVID-19 – and ease the pressure on stressed local hospitals—is to get vaccinated. Regence covers COVID-19 vaccinations at no cost under most health plans. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccinations, testing and treatment.