Why You Should Use A Freestanding Emergency Room

Most of us have probably been there at some point in our lives: A family member or friend has a serious injury or illness, so we rush them to the nearest hospital ER expecting immediate service only to find a crowded room with countless other sick or injured people anxiously waiting to be seen.

When faced with an emergency like severe chest pains or a concussion, you need to get to an ER facility quickly. Most people rush to their local hospital, but what if there is a better option?

Freestanding emergency rooms provide all of the same vital, lifesaving services as a hospital emergency room. The only difference is that—as the name suggests—freestanding ERs are not attached to a hospital facility–rather they are standalone facilities that provide the same services.

Freestanding ER facilities offer quality emergency care with little to no wait times. This is a major advantage, since one of the most frustrating (and potentially dangerous) realities of hospital emergency rooms is long wait times for injuries or illnesses that are not immediately life-threatening.

Freestanding emergency rooms are growing in popularity and are becoming the clear choice for fast, reliable emergency medical services. We’ll explore the advantages of using a freestanding ER ahead. First, let’s look at some statistics surrounding emergency department visits in general.

The Problem of Hospital ER Wait Times and Crowding

Wait times and crowding in emergency departments (ED) are significant issues, especially since emergency visits are on the rise. Consider these statistics from Becker’s Hospital Review:

• ED visits are common—in the U.S. there are 42 visits for every 100 people each year.
• There are approximately 136 million emergency department visits in the U.S. each year.
• There are around 40 million injury-related ED visits are each year.
• Around 16 million ED visits (nearly 12%) result in a hospital admission.
â—Š Around 2.1 million ED visits result in admission to the critical care department.
◊ The average wait time between the time a patient is admitted to the hospital and the time they are taken to their room is 96 minutes—this does not include time spent in the emergency department.
• Patients spend an average of 135 minutes in the ED before being sent home.
• Patients with broken bones wait an average of 54 minutes before receiving pain medication after arriving at the ED.

Not only are delays frustrating, they can also be harmful to patients. The risks of delays in receiving care include:

• Ambulance diversions: Emergency departments that are overwhelmed with patients may have no choice but to divert ambulances to other hospitals, which can lead to dangerous delays in care.
• Not receiving treatment at all: Some patients may get tired of waiting and leave without receiving treatment.
• Higher risk of dying: A study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine found that patients who were admitted to the hospital from the emergency department during periods of high crowding died more often than patients with similar conditions who were admitted to the same hospital during slower periods. A high-risk patient’s risk of death rose by 71-79% for every additional hour they had to wait to be seen, according to one study.

These numbers are alarming and highlight how important it is for patients to be seen quickly after arrival at an emergency department.

Advantages of Using a Freestanding ER

Let’s look at the advantages of using a freestanding ER versus a hospital emergency department.

• Faster service: Given what we know about how long patients spend in the emergency department (135 minutes on average, and much longer for many patients) and the dangers of not being treated right away, faster service should be a top priority for every patient. Freestanding emergency rooms aren’t tied to huge hospital facilities and their bureaucracies, so they’re able to see patients more quickly.

• Quality care: Just like hospital emergency departments, federal law requires freestanding ER facilities to be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Freestanding emergency rooms must have emergency physicians on-site at all times, keep medications on-site, provide round-the-clock lab and imaging services, and provide lifesaving care immediately.

• Accessibility: Most emergency department visits (85%) occur in metropolitan areas.1 For many people in rural communities, getting to the city for an emergency room visit can be quite a trek. This is another advantage of freestanding emergency rooms—accessibility. Many standalone ERs are located in suburban and rural areas, and every minute counts in an emergency.

• Convenience: Anyone who has ever been to a big hospital knows the struggles of navigating a huge medical complex. Your first battle is finding a place to park in a huge lot or—more likely—a confusing parking structure. Then your challenge is actually finding the ER in what is often a maze of buildings. Standalone ERs are much more manageably sized—no struggling to find a parking space or the right building. It’s one less thing to worry about when you’re already stressed in an emergency.

• Insurance accepted: Federal law now requires that private (employer sponsored) health plans offer essential health benefits, which includes emergency services. It’s important to note that your copay at the time of service varies depending on the plan you selected, but should be stated on your membership card. A trip to The Emergency Center is billed and processed just like a hospital ER visit – not your primary doctor or urgent care facility copay. If you’re unsure, our team will check your benefits prior to admitting you and confirm this information. At this time, no freestanding ER accepts any government program such as Medicare, Medicaid, CHIPs, or Tricare. Of course, we will treat you if you have these types of insurance, but you will be billed and charged at our current self-pay rates.

What Is a True Medical Emergency?

Sometimes it’s a little unclear exactly what constitutes a true medical emergency. Most of us probably know someone who routinely brushes off injuries that should probably be treated as emergencies (such as deep lacerations) and others who run to the ER at the first sniffle or cough.

Here are some examples of illnesses and injuries that are true emergencies:

• Back or neck injuries • Exposure to hazardous chemicals
• Chest pain or pressure • Severe or persistent vomiting
• Diabetic shock (severe hypoglycemia) • Coughing or vomiting up blood
• Deep lacerations • Persistent high fever
• Choking • Extreme dehydration
• Fainting, dizziness, or loss of consciousness • Change in mental behavior
• Seizures • Smoke inhalation or severe burns

What About Urgent Care?

Urgent care facilities are equipped to treat conditions that are not serious enough for the ER but require more immediate care than can wait for a 9-5 doctor. Examples of conditions treated at urgent care centers include:

• Allergies • Gout
• Mild asthma attacks • Skin rashes
• Colds/flus • Athlete’s foot
• Diarrhea • Poison ivy/oak
• Ear infections • Sexually transmitted infections
• Urinary tract infections (UTIs) • Sprains/strains

Keep in mind that, while urgent care centers may be open on weekends and have extended hours, they are not required to be open 24/7 like freestanding ERs. Urgent care facilities are also not required to provide round-the-clock imaging services, and these facilities almost never have CT scanners, ultrasound machines, or full lab capacity within their facility. Additionally, urgent care staff members often do not have the same level of training as staff members of freestanding emergency rooms.

Freestanding ERs: Quality Care, Fast Service

In an emergency, freestanding emergency rooms are the clear choice. Dramatically-reduced wait times, quality care available 24/7, private insurance plans accepted, and the same quality of care as a hospital emergency department with none of the hassles.

The Emergency Center (TEC) is a freestanding ER facility providing quality emergency care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our state-of-the-art facilities are staffed by board-certified physicians, ICU and ER trained nurses, x-ray technologists, and skilled administrative staff. TEC offers comprehensive emergency evaluation, treatment, and diagnostic testing, including ultrasounds, x-rays, and full lab services.

We take the “waiting” out of the “waiting room” when it matters most, and TEC takes pride in providing compassionate, efficient care to each and every patient. Learn more about The Emergency Center.



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The Emergency Center

San Antonio
11320 Alamo Ranch Pkwy
San Antonio, TX 78253

Phone: 210-485-3644