What to look for?
The easiest way to distinguish an FEC from an urgent care facility is to look for the signage. FEC facilities are legally permitted to advertise for treating medical emergencies, unlike urgent cares. Words like “emergency” and “ER” will be on the signage for every TAFEC facility. This signage will be located on the exterior of the facility, at the primary entrance, at the front desk and waiting rooms, and in each patient treatment room.
FECs also have notices posted to further educate patients that they are at an emergency medical facility, that FEC rates are comparable to hospital ERs, that they will be charged a facility fee just like a hospital ER, and that FECs may not be a participating provider in the patient’s health plan.
Additionally, every TAFEC facility requires full disclosure that patients are at an emergency room, and as such, will be billed accordingly. This includes covering the costs associated with state of the art medical equipment and ER-trained physicians 24/7, just like a hospital ER.
Levels of Service
Urgent care facilities are a great option for patients with non-life threatening injuries or illnesses. These facilities function like a primary care physician’s office with extended hours, and patients may be seen by a nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, or doctor. Urgent care facilities are an ideal choice for patients with common illnesses and minor injuries like the ones listed below:
- Minor infections
- Flu symptoms
- School and sports physicals
- Small lacerations
For true medical emergencies that require immediate attention, emergency rooms are the best choice for patients. Unlike urgent care facilities, FECs are staffed 24/7 with ER-trained physicians and equipped to treat high acuity patients. The following life-threatening illnesses and injuries would warrant a trip to the ER:
- Heart attack or stroke
- Open fractures
- Severe bleeding
- Severe burns
- Chest pain
- Head injury or other major trauma
- One-sided weakness or numbness
- Loss of consciousness
- Severe abdominal pain