Urgent Care vs. the Emergency Room

Sometimes when someone in your family needs medical care, you face a decision: Should we go to urgent care or make a trip to the E.R? After all, the options seem comparable. You don’t need an appointment, you can get pretty quick attention, and both can be billed to your insurance.

There are, however, key differences to consider when deciding where to go. Urgent care facilities should be used for basic non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries when your family physician is not available. Urgent care facilities cost less and typically have shorter waiting times than the E.R. If you have a life-threatening condition, or an illness or injury requiring advanced or specialized care, you should go to the E.R. The benefit of the E.R. is that it is always open and will ensure you receive care faster the more serious your condition is.

Below are some examples of illnesses or injuries you might have that would require you to go to each type of facility.

Urgent Care

  • Flu and cold
  • Coughs and sore throat
  • Fevers without rash
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain
  • Cuts, severe scrapes, minor injuries, and burns

Emergency Room

  • Severe shortness of breath, loss of consciousness, or symptoms of a heart attack or stroke
  • Poisoning
  • Life or limb-threatening injuries
  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Allergic reactions to food, or animal and insect bites

Before you go anywhere, do what you can to make sure the facility is in your network and that you have information on all your current medications, insurance, and your family physician. After your visit, make an appointment with your family physician for a follow-up visit.

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