by April Obholz Bergeler

When you have an unexpected health issue, you need to find medical help. Where you go for care can affect how much you pay, how long you wait and your type of treatment. Different levels of health care exist to help you get the type of care you need while potentially avoiding higher medical bills.

If you are dealing with an earache, make an appointment with your primary care provider rather than rush to an emergency room. If you are experiencing unusual chest pain or are having trouble breathing, you need immediate care and should call 911.

For nonemergencies, Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center encourages you to call your insurance provider to determine what is covered by your plan. It’s also a good idea to consider the cost of care, in general, as well as treatment options before a health concern develops. The three options HRRMC provides are primary care, a walk-in clinic and the HRRMC Emergency Department.

HRRMC offers primary care at its hospital in Salida and its clinic in Buena Vista. Primary care providers are the first line of support and include family doctors, internal medicine physicians, physician assistants and family nurse practitioners. Unlike walk-in clinics or emergency rooms, primary care offers preventive and wellness screenings, immunizations and flu shots, and management of chronic conditions.

Primary care is for all ages, newborns to senior citizens. Depending on the type of insurance you have, primary care is typically the least expensive option. Keep in mind that appointments are necessary.

Walk-in clinics assist with common, non-life-threatening conditions when your primary care provider is not available. Walk-in clinic providers are typically nurse practitioners or physician assistants; however, at the HRRMC Walk-in Clinic, care is provided by both a doctor and a nurse practitioner. Walk-in clinics treat conditions such as bronchitis, colds, coughs, ear infections, mild vomiting or diarrhea.

Prices are the same at the HRRMC Buena Vista Walk-in Clinic as a visit with an HRRMC primary care provider in Buena Vista or Salida. The HRRMC Walk-in Clinic hours are Monday to Friday, 1-5:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. If necessary, you could be sent to the HRRMC Emergency Department.

HRRMC offers a walk-in clinic as an affordable alternative to urgent care. Urgent care clinics are like walk-in clinics, but may treat more serious illnesses and injuries. Urgent care is designed to remove some of the burden from emergency rooms. Urgent care is more expensive than primary care and walk-in clinics, but is more affordable than emergency care services.

For life-threatening conditions and other medical emergencies, you should go to the nearest ER where you will be treated by doctors and nurses trained in emergency medicine. Conditions treated in the hospital‘s emergency department include chest pain, broken bones, burns, head and spinal injuries, and stroke.

Always keep in mind that emergent care is more costly than urgent, walk-in or primary care, and you will be treated in order based on the severity of your condition, so you may have to wait awhile.

To learn more about the different types of care offered in Chaffee County, see the accompanying chart.

April Obholz Bergeler is a marketing and public relations specialist at Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center.

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