Texas ER & clinic options have varying quality and cost


Learning about the options now may help you get a better outcome, while saving money, when you need health care

May 26, 2017

When it comes to seeking access to health care, Texans have more choices than ever. With a growing and aging population, access to care is a significant issue.

What many people do not realize, though, is that some of those choices can have major consequences.


When it comes to access to care, my personal favorite development is that Teladoc, which is now operating in the State of Texas. Teladoc is one of a number of companies that offer telemedicine services.

Telemedicine is extremely convenient and inexpensive.

Using the internet or an app, patients can request an online video or telephone visit with a board certified doctor 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The average wait time to get to a doctor is about 10 minutes.

Most patients use the service for general health issues like a common cold, digestive issue, rash, infection, eye irritation, and things of that nature. Teledoc doctors can write most prescriptions for you, just like a doctor that you see in person.

In a state that claims to have a severe physician shortage, you might expect a warm welcome to telemedicine providers. But not so from the Texas Medical Board, which is embroiled in litigation against Teledoc that challenges its user-friendly, accessible business model.

As a Texas medical malpractice lawyer, I am not a fan of the Texas Medical Board. While its mission is to regulate the medical industry and promote access and quality of care, in my opinion, it has been a massive failure in policing incompetent doctors. Instead, in my experience, it acts like a massive paper tiger that in reality protects even bad doctors until it is too late.

According to Teladoc, it has won over the board on nine different occasions in court. In October 2016, the board dropped a pending appeal in the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, to allow it to focus on existing federal court litigation in Austin.

Freestanding emergency rooms

Since around 2009, another new provider type has entered the healthcare scene in Texas. More than half of all freestanding ERs in America are located in Texas, where they have opened in strip malls and other places all over our major metropolitan areas.

On the one hand, these facilities are extremely convenient. They are typically located near neighborhoods and have short wait times to get to see a doctor. Freestanding emergency rooms offer lab services and usually have a CT scanner available.

On the other hand, many patients have been shocked that freestanding ERs sometimes charge up to 10 times more than urgent care centers for the same services. Typically, freestanding emergency rooms are out-of-network for most insurance companies.

You can read more about the differences between hospital emergency rooms and freestanding ERs here.

Options, options, options

When you need care, but it is not an emergency, you have a variety of options that we will discuss, in the order of increasing cost. I think it is good to think through these options before you need to use one.

Nursing hotlines. Many hospitals offer nursing hotlines that available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Houston’s Memorial Hermann Hospital System offers a free nursing hotline service, for example.

Telemedicine. As discussed above, providers like Teladoc offer fast and cost-effective video or phone consults with physicians, and can even write most prescriptions, as needed.

Retail clinics. Many pharmacies offer clinics in their brick-and-mortar stores. Many CVS locations, for example, have Minute Clinics, which are typically staffed with a nurse practitioner or physician assistant.

Doctor’s office. For many years, this was the only option and it is still considered the gold standard by most people. It is often difficult to get in to a busy office practice, though, so patients enjoy having the other options so they can receive care when they need it.

For circumstances where you need immediate attention or are more sudden and serious, your options include urgent care clinics, freestanding emergency rooms, and hospital emergency rooms.

Urgent care clinics. These facilities are usually much less expensive than emergency rooms and handle complaints like headaches, infections, pain, sprains, bites, and cuts that require stitches.

Emergency rooms. Hospital ERs used to be the only options, but many neighborhoods have easy access to freestanding ERs, which are typically much more convenient and expensive. Freestanding ERs usually offer quick service and diagnostic work-up, but if your condition requires a hospital admission, you will often have to start the process over by going to the hospital emergency room.

We are here to help.

The medical malpractice lawyers have investigated and handled negligence cases against doctors, clinics, and hospitals of all shapes and sizes. If you or someone you care for has been injured because of medical negligence, call Painter Law Firm at 281-580-8800, for a free consultation.

Robert Painter

Robert Painter is a medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm PLLC.


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