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Convenient care, urgent care, emergency care or virtual care – what’s the difference?

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In a world where there’s not enough time in the day to be sick, we find ourselves wanting flexibility and more options for care when illness or injury strikes. But the choices can be confusing – what is the difference between convenient care and urgent care?  Where do you go for an earache, a sprain, or something more serious, such as trouble breathing?  While convenient care, urgent care, virtual care and the ER aren’t meant to replace visits to your doctor, they are there when you need to see someone during off hours, weekends, or more quickly than going to your physician.

BJC Medical Group recommends contacting your provider first when health concerns arise, unless it is a medical emergency. Both urgent care and convenient care clinics are walk-in centers that are great alternatives when you aren’t able to see your regular provider or after regular hours. Services vary by location, but these clinics often offer lab tests for basic bloodwork and advanced diagnostics, including X-rays. The wait is typically short, and the cost is less than going to an emergency department.

Convenient care clinics are used to treat minor injuries or illnesses. These clinics are typically staffed with a nurse practitioner or physician assistant. They are less expensive than a visit to an emergency room. BJC Medical Group has several convenient care locations in Missouri and Illinois that offer extended hours and accept walk-ins. While no appointments are necessary, you can also save your spot at a BJC convenient care location online. Our convenient care locations are currently experiencing high volumes of patients, so wait times may be longer than normal. Go to www.bjc.org/convenientcare to find a location near you or to reserve a time for your visit.

Use the convenient care for:

  • COVID-19 symptoms/testing/rapid testing (varies by location)/treatment
  • Allergies
  • Insect bites
  • Coughs, colds, flu and fever
  • Earaches
  • Urinary problems
  • Sore throats and strep or mono
  • Eye irritation
  • Mild skin conditions and rashes

Urgent care clinics are usually larger than convenient care clinics but are still smaller than an emergency room and also have extended hours. They treat more serious health issues that aren’t life threatening and are usually staffed by physicians. Urgent care clinics are not only less expensive than a visit to the ER, but also wait times are usually shorter.

You can visit an urgent care clinic for any issues in the list above, plus:

  • Possible broken bones
  • Foreign body in the eye
  • Open wound
  • Wounds needing stitches

Emergency rooms (ERs) are for more serious injuries or illness and are open around-the-clock. For a less severe injury or illness, the wait can be longer than with convenient care or urgent care and the cost higher. Check in for estimated treatment times at select hospital emergency rooms by visiting bjc.org/er. Of course, if the condition is life-threatening, such as a heart attack, stroke, or if someone is unresponsive, call 911 immediately.

Use the ER for:

  • Severe COVID-19 symptoms
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Severe pain
  • Serious injury
  • Sudden vision impairment
  • Broken bones visible through the skin
  • Severe burns
  • Fainting
  • Poisoning
  • Rapid heartbeat

Virtual visits offer on-demand, same-day care without leaving home. Options vary by symptom but may include an e-visit or video visit to evaluate your symptoms. A video visit allows you to connect face-to-face with a member of our Virtual Care team using the camera on your smartphone, tablet or computer. E-visits allow you to answer a brief questionnaire about your symptoms.  The Virtual Care team will review the information and send you a message via the MyChart portal with a diagnosis and recommended care. The wait can be 15 minutes to an hour, and the cost is about what you would pay for a doctor’s visit. Your visit will be with a physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant who is part of the Virtual Care team. Or you can meet with your current provider through a scheduled virtual visit. Scheduled virtual visits are available with BJC Medical Group primary care physicians and participating specialists, and availability varies by specialty and office. Hours are from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily and can be requested through MyChart for users 12 and older.  For more information, visit bjc.org/Virtual-Care.

Remember that virtual visits are for common conditions, not for emergency care.

Concerned about COVID-19 symptoms? If you have concerns about COVID-19, log in or sign up for the MyChart patient health portal at www.mypatientchart.org to use the online symptom checker. Based on your symptoms, medical conditions and other answers, this will help us determine the appropriate level of care for you. If you would benefit from a COVID-19 e-visit or video visit, these will be offered, although there may be a fee for these visits. If you need to be tested for COVID-19, learn more about the options in our region by visiting bjc.org/coronavirus/testing.

BJC Medical Group has convenient care locations

BJC Medical Group has several convenient care locations in Missouri and Illinois where no appointments are necessary. While walk-ins are welcome, you can also save your spot at a BJC convenient care location online. Our convenient care locations are currently experiencing high volumes of patients, so wait times may be longer than normal. Go to www.bjc.org/convenientcare to find a location near you or to reserve a time for your visit.

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