A Guide to the ER: When to Go, When Not to Go


| 2 min read

Unlike traditional doctors’ offices, walk-in clinics or urgent care clinics, emergency rooms (ER) are designed to treat injuries and illnesses that are serious or life-threatening.
They are open 24/7, 365 days a year, and are equipped with high-cost equipment and staffed with specialists and physicians who can handle a wide variety of situations. As a result, visits to the ER can come with a high price tag. Just how expensive is it?
According to 2020 Consumer Health ratings, the average visit to a doctor's office cost $335, compared to $1,150 for an ER visit. Studies show that between 13.7% and 27.1% of emergency room visits could be handled at clinics and urgent-care centers.
Since knowing when to go to an ER can be confusing, here is more information on when you should visit one and when you can head to your primary care physician or an urgent care clinic: Go to an urgent care clinic if your primary care physician’s office is closed and you have an injury or illness that isn’t life-threatening and that won’t get worse if you wait until your doctor’s office opens. This includes:
  • Sore throat
  • Earache
  • Minor cuts, scrapes, sprains and strains
  • Fever under 103 degrees or flu
  • Vomiting, diarrhea or dehydration
Go to an emergency room for anything that’s severe, life-threatening or that needs immediate treatment. This includes:
  • Heart attack symptoms
  • A blow to the head
  • A broken bone
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Uncontrollable bleeding
  • Severe burns
Don’t wait until something happens to find your nearest in-network emergency room and urgent care center. Head to bcbsm.com to find one through the Find a Doctor tool. And learn even more to prepare for an ER visit by reading these blogs from A Healthier Michigan:

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Blues Perspectives

Jul 30, 2021 at 1:45pm

Thank you for your recommendation, Diane. We’ll share it with our writing team.


Jul 23, 2021 at 3:14pm

Should add difficulty breathing to the go to ER list

Blues Perspectives

Jul 4, 2017 at 9:06pm

Hi, Peggy and Dave. Please call and speak with your doctor if you ever have specific questions about high blood pressure.

Peggy Hyatt & David Berry

Jul 3, 2017 at 2:37pm

When to go to ER when your blood pressure is getting too high?

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