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How to decide between the emergency room and urgent care.

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As health-care costs shift more toward patients, both consumers and insurance companies are looking for ways to save. Historically, ERs have been big wallet-emptiers because patients are paying for 24-hour access and state-of-the-art technology. That’s where urgent care—which has seen growing popularity among insurers and therefore patients—enters the picture. In this era of soaring costs, urgent cares provide a lower-priced option while maintaining quality. But is it a wise alternative? In terms of cost and access, “it’s filling a bit of a niche,” says Dr. John Santos, medical director of Children’s Hospital Colorado Urgent Care, Uptown Denver. “The key is making sure it’s providing appropriate care as well.”

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