Nurse Advice Line in place to help

(Courtesy Photo)

(Courtesy Photo)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- It’s 4 p.m. on a Monday afternoon and you’ve hurt your back carrying a bag of groceries up the stairs. Or it’s Sunday morning and your child wakes up with a fever and a sore throat. More often than not, medical concerns seemingly arise out of nowhere. When it’s after normal clinic hours, what is the best option for medical care? Walk-in clinics, Urgent Care Clinics and Emergency Departments all provide after-hours care, but understanding the differences in levels of care, and the costs that can be incurred, can be overwhelming.

Enrollees of the 92nd Medical Group have a number of options available for after-hours care. Outside of a true life or death emergency, the first option to consider is the Nurse Advice Line. The NAL is free and available 24/7, and provides members with direct access to a Registered Nurse who can help determine if a medical concern requires a visit to an Urgent Care Clinic, a trip to a local Emergency Department, or if the issue can wait until the next day to be addressed by a provider at the 92nd MDG. For people with chronic or complex medical issues, an appointment with a Primary Care Manager can offer the best continuity of care, even if it requires waiting until the next day for an appointment.

If the medical concern is not an “emergency,” but shouldn’t wait until the next business day, the NAL might suggest a visit to an Urgent Care Clinic. An Urgent Care visit is for treatment of a condition, injury, or illness that would not result in further disability or death if not treated immediately but warrants medical attention within 24 hours. Examples of medical conditions that may require a visit to an Urgent Care Clinic are a migraine headache, urinary tract infection, sprain, earache or persistent fever.

Urgent Care Clinics are located throughout the Spokane area, and the NAL will recommend one that is close by and accepts TRICARE. Urgent Care Clinics are open longer than normal 92nd MDG clinic hours, as well as on weekends; however, they’re not open 24/7, and wait times can be up to an hour or two.

If a medical condition is serious enough, the NAL might suggest a visit to an Emergency Department. Unlike an Urgent Care Clinic, visits to the Emergency Department should be reserved for serious medical conditions, such as possible loss of life, limb or eyesight. Even though Emergency Departments are open 24/7, for those who present with non-emergent problems, the wait time can be several hours, with the financial cost of care being substantially higher than a trip to an Urgent Care Clinic.

If a medical concern is not urgent or emergent, the NAL might recommend discussing it with a Primary Care Manager. There are several ways to communicate with providers at the 92nd MDG, including sending a MiCare message directly from any computer or smartphone. If an appointment is necessary, one can be booked from the comfort of home at www.tricareonline.com, or by calling the 92nd MDG appointment line at (509) 247-2361.

Finally, the 92nd MDG, in partnership with TRICARE, is announcing the Urgent Care Pilot Program. This is a three year pilot program that provides some TRICARE Prime beneficiaries with two Urgent Care visits in the United States each fiscal year (Oct. 1-Sept. 30) without an authorization or referral.

The Urgent Care Pilot Program is available to: Active- duty service members with TRICARE Prime Remote; non-active duty service members (dependents, retirees and their family members) with TRICARE Prime, TRICARE Prime Remote, TRICARE Young Adult Prime, and TRICARE Overseas traveling in the United States. There are no Urgent Care costs or co-pays for these populations under the pilot program. Retirees, their family members and others in TRICARE Prime will pay $12.00 per visit. Active- duty service members with TRICARE Prime are not eligible for this program.

Regardless of your medical concern, there are treatment options available. The Nurse Advice Line can help you decide which option is best for you and your family, and can be contacted any hour of the day or night at 1-800-TRICARE (1-800-874-2273). As always, the 92nd Medical Group is here to ensure you get trusted care…any time, anywhere.