Sustaining a twisted ankle, waking up with body aches and a fever or enduring a respiratory infection that makes it difficult to breath may all cause someone to question if they should get checked out by a doctor; and, if so, where should they go?

Life throws at us unanticipated events, so it’s wise to know your options when seeking medical care. Making the best decision on where and how to receive your medical care can significantly impact how long you must wait to be treated and how much it will cost.

Fortunately, Blue Cross Blue Shield — the carrier of the Gratiot-Isabelle RESD’s health care plan — makes it easy for you to select the provider that best suits employees’ needs. Under Blue Cross Blue Shield, employees have access to a 24-hour nurse hotline, retail health clinics, urgent care and online visits with health care professionals in addition to their primary care physician (PCP) and emergency room care.

Emergency Response

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, people in the U.S. made 139 million visits to emergency rooms in 2017. Of this number, 40 million were injury-related and 14.5 million resulted in admittance to the hospital. Two million of those people were admitted to critical care.

Chances are many of these people who were admitted to hospitals could have received adequate care somewhere besides the emergency room.

An ER visit is the most expensive option and should be saved for traumatic situations that demand high levels of immediate care — in other words, the possibility of losing life or limb. Potentially life-threatening situations can present themselves through symptoms including wheezing and difficulty breathing, broken bones, chest pain, open wound fractures, fainting or dizziness, sudden and severe pain, uncontrollable bleeding, convulsions, severe headache or head injury, coughing or vomiting blood, and blood in urine or stool, among others.

Non-emergency symptoms include sore throat and cough, painful urination, earache, influenza, mild allergy symptoms, rash, eye irritation or redness, minor burns and cuts, and sprains and strains.

A visit to the ER will incur a premium price and you may wait hours before being treated, so people experiencing non-emergency symptoms should consider other options.

24-Hour Nurse Line

The Blue Cross Blue Shield 24-Hour Nurse Line is available 24/7, at no cost. Staffed with registered nurses can help patients decide if they can self-treat a condition or if they should seek care with their PCP, an urgent care center or the ER. It’s also an excellent resource for discussing treatment options for non-emergencies and other general medical questions. Blue Care Network members can call (855) 624-5214 The average wait time before receiving care is 12 minutes.

Primary Care Physician (PCP)

Seeing your PCP provides the benefit of having a trusted care provider who knows you and your health history. Many PCPs provide extended hours and can generally be reached after hours by phone. Some PCPs are available through email or video. The average wait time for care is 60 minutes.

For online visits, download the BCBSM Online Visits app to your phone or tablet, visit or call (844) 606-1608

Blue Cross Online Visits

Care through Blue Cross Online Visits is accessible by smartphone, tablet or computer. Appointments are unnecessary and there is no waiting room, and patients can send a summary of the visit to their PCP. The average wait time is about 10 minutes.

Retail Health Clinic

This option is available in certain drug store chains and store fronts. Average wait time is 45 minutes. For information about

your health care options call Blue Cross Blue Shield at

(800) 775-2583.

Urgent Care Center

Urgent care centers offer convenient locations with evening and weekend hours. Walk-in appointments are available. They are significantly less expensive than the ER, but typically cost more than the other options. Average wait time is 60 to 90 minutes.

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