NewsYour Health Matters


Broken bone? Do you head to the emergency room or urgent care?

Posted at 3:25 PM, Sep 04, 2018

It’s therapy time for Michelle Mandoza, a rugby player sidelined because of an injury.  She explains, “I took a hit to my knee that kind of made my hip feel wonky.”

She skipped the traditional E.R. route and went straight to an urgent care, but not just any kind. She went to an orthopedic urgent care facility. “If you were to go to the E.R., you know, they’d send you to a specialist. Here you have specialists,” she explains.

Orthopedic urgent cares are popping up around the US.  “We feel that specialty walk-in centers are going to be expanding. Not only are we seeing it with orthopedic but certainly we've seen it with pediatric,” says Dr. Alejandro Badia, the founder of OrthoNOW. They have urgent care and physical therapy facilities in several states. 

He explains, “You're seeing somebody who understands orthopedic. There is no doubt that that is going to be more cost-effective and less hassle for the patient, than going to see a general physician, who then is making their best guess what the problem is, and inevitably, still sending you to somebody like us. We want to cut out that first step.”

Plus, he stresses other good reasons for getting to the right kind of doctor right away. Dr. Badia says, “There's a military study that actually showed that about a third of orthopedic injuries in an emergency room were misdiagnosed or under diagnosed. And there's a very interesting study in the pediatric literature that shows that 93 percent of patients are incorrectly splinted in an urgent care or even E.R.”

And he points out other benefits to avoiding the traditional E.R. or mainstream urgent care route, saying “You may go in with a routine ankle sprain, but you're sitting in a emergency room with some often very sick people and you may come out with some infectious disease.”

We reached out to the American College of Emergency Room Physicians. They chose not to make a statement for this story, but did share a document outlining the differences in emergency rooms, urgent cares and trauma centers. 

One downside to the specialty urgent cares: you may face a fight with your insurance company to get it paid until the concept becomes more mainstream.

Michelle says that wasn’t an issue for her, and she sees the orthopedic urgent care as a win-win for her, saying, “You get to get to the source a lot quicker.”