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Not every illness or injury is an emergency, but there are sometimes problems you want to get checked right away. You don’t want to cough all night for one more night, or you think your child may need stitches.
Knowing about your other options may make a big difference – in how long you wait and how much you pay.
Many plans covered by BCBSTX include our 24/7 Nurseline and virtual visits as an option. You can give the details of the problem, and a nurse can tell you the best place to go or a virtual visit doctor can even call in a prescription if needed. They will know if you need to go to the emergency room, they can call ahead to give the emergency staff instructions on what to do when you arrive.
Path 1: Call Your Doctor If you have a family doctor or pediatrician, call first. Many will try to squeeze you in for a same-day appointment for urgent needs. Even if it is after hours, many doctors’ offices have an after-hours number. They may help you decide if you need to see someone right away or if they can just call a prescription in for you.
Path 2: Retail Health or Convenient Care Clinic* So where do you go to have a minor medical problem looked at after hours? Walk-in clinics may be your best choice. In addition to being at the store around the corner, they also keep store hours. Some clinics may even offer 24-hour prescription services.
Costs are lower than an urgent care center or an ER, so it’s really a great choice when you can’t get in to see your doctor. And, wait times are less than at the ER. You may be able to get in right away or within the hour.
Use Provider Finder to see if there is one near you. You can pick "Retail Health Clinics" from the “Provider Type” dropdown.
Path 3: Urgent Care/Comprehensive Care Center* It’s a holiday weekend, your doctor’s office is closed, and you’re faced with a problem needing care right away. Where do you go if you don’t think it is serious or life-threatening, but can’t wait?
Urgent care centers or comprehensive care centers may be the best choice.
These centers are staffed by an internal medicine, family practice or ER doctor. Out-of-pocket costs are lower than an ER, but costs may be higher than your doctor’s office or a retail health clinic. Wait times may be over an hour, but some have online and/or phone check in so you don’t have to sit in a waiting room for hours.
Originally published December 18, 2014; Revised 2019
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