Differences Between Urgent Care vs Emergency

It’s very important to understand the differences between emergency rooms (ERs) and Urgent care. If a medical condition is life-threatening, or involves severe wounds or amputations, patients should go to the ER. On the other hand, if the medical condition is non-life-threatening, urgent care at can be a less costly and faster alternative to the ER. To receive the most appropriate medical care, it’s important to know the difference between urgency and emergency.  So, here is everything you need to know about the two.

When to Take a Child to Urgent Care and Not the ER.png

When to Use Urgent Care

If health needs suddenly arise on the evenings, weekends and holidays, urgent care clinics are available at those particular times. With walk-in appointments and flexible hours, urgent care clinics are good options when the unexpected happens.

Urgent care is available during times your primary care doctor may not be, with later and weekend or holiday hours. Urgent care can handle injuries and illnesses, but it isn’t a good place to get care for chronic conditions. If you have a primary care doctor, urgent care clinicians will have access to your electronic health record and can communicate information back to your regular doctor which is a great thing when in hurry.

Remember, urgent care should be used for injuries and illnesses that aren’t life threatening but still require fast attention. Here is what you can go to urgent care for:

  • Upper respiratory problems
  • Sinus infection, sore throat or ear infection
  • Minor injuries, including small cuts or burns
  • Non-life-threatening allergic reactions
  • Bug bites, minor animal or human bites
  • Urinary tract infection

When to Go to the Emergency Room

For serious or life-threatening health issues, you need to dial 911 or go to the emergency room. The emergency department is an expensive place to receive care and should be utilized for life-threatening injuries and illnesses. When people use the emergency department for minor injuries and illnesses, it causes the cost to go up.

Reasons to go to the emergency room include:

  • Chest pain or symptoms of heart attack
  • Symptoms of stroke – sudden dizziness, weakness, loss of coordination, balance and vision problems
  • Injuries from a car accident
  • Head pain or head injury
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Open broken bones
  • Abdominal pain
  • Choking
  • Poisoning
  • Foreign object in the eye

Payment and Wait Time in Urgent Care Vs. Emergency Rooms

Emergency rooms operate by treating patients with the most serious and demanding conditions first, leaving those with less severe problems to wait. 12.5% of emergency room patients are typically served within one hour or less, while urgent care clinics usually treat 88.6% of their patients within an hour. Also, there are several financial downsides to emergency room visits. Urgent care centers are usually around seven times cheaper than a visit to the emergency room. At an ER, you may also have multiple charges, higher co-pays, and you may be left to pay the medical bills yourself if your insurance company determines that the event that brought you to the emergency room was a non-medical emergency.

It makes sense to go to the hospital if you suspect a serious illness or a serious injury. Doctors can always do an initial evaluation at the urgent care center, but there’s a good chance that you’ll end up transferring to a hospital for further evaluation and treatment.So, it’s important to know the difference and be able to react properly in case of emergency!


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