If you develop a serious medical problem after hours when your regular medical doctor's office is closed, then it's all on you to decide what you should do. Should you wait until they reopen? Should you go to the emergency room? Should you instead go to a walk-in urgent care clinic?
Since everyone is different and every situation has its own set of factors, no one can give you a solid answer to the questions. However, by taking the following considerations into mind, you can make the best decision and get the appropriate level of care:
Consideration #1: The Severity of Your Medical Problem
Obviously, if your medical condition isn't serious, then you should wait for your family doctor's office to open. However, if you believe your condition is serious or potentially dangerous to your future health, then going to either the ER or an urgent care is warranted.
Urgent care clinics are great options for illnesses such as strep throat, or for muscle pulls and strains. They are designed to treat issues that only require a few minutes of a doctor's time or a few laboratory tests at their lab test clinic.
If you have chest pain, shortness of breath, or believe you have a broken bone, then you will need to go to the emergency room where they have more diagnostic equipment and the level of care is more appropriate.
Consideration #2: Your Medical Insurance Coverage and Potential Out-of-Pocket Costs
Going to any emergency room in any hospital in the United States is going to cost thousands of dollars. Emergency medical care is some of the most expensive in the industry.
While in a perfect world no one would have to take cost into consideration when seeking medical attention is necessary, the reality is this just isn't the case today.
If you have great insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid, then going to the emergency room won't likely result in a pile of unaffordable medical bills. However, if you are uninsured or have a less-than-stellar insurance policy, then going to the emergency room can be very pricey. By going to an urgent care or walk-in clinic instead, you can potentially save thousands of dollars.
Consideration #3: The Time of Day
Finally, while most walk-in clinics are open seven days a week, many do close overnight. If your condition comes on late at night and you are concerned about waiting until a clinic reopens, then going to the emergency room is your only option.