Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room

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Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room: Illness and injury can be scary, especially when things happen in the evening or over the weekend, when a primary healthcare provider isn’t readily available.  So, how do you decide where to go when sick or injured? The Urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA), has some great information on what constitutes an emergency… when an ER visit is appropriate and when a trip to an urgent care facility will be best.
First – lets talk about what types of urgent care facilities are available:

Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room

Most people are aware of the fact that hospitals have emergency rooms.  Not all are aware of the many options that are available, for non-life threatening situations.  Here is a breakdown of some alternatives.

Urgent Care Clinics

These facilities can treat a number of types of illnesses and injuries that are serious, but not immediately life threatening. Their staff are usually qualified to set bones, stitch wounds, treat severe flu symptoms, and other illnesses such as bronchitis and strep throat or asthma attacks.  One can receive IV fluids, and get test results while  waiting, as most have onsite labs for diagnostics.  X-ray equipment is also readily available.

Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room

Retail Clinics / Walk-In Clinics:

For more minor illnesses, sprains and strains…sometimes even wellness checkups and routine vaccinations, a retail/walk-in clinic might be just what the doctor ordered.

Telemedicine is growing in popularity by leaps and bounds.

This is great for the faced paced life that has become common place.  Doctors and nurses can consult with patients over the phone / internet, to diagnose non-threatening illnesses and call in prescriptions to local pharmacies. This is also a great option for those who live in remote areas.

On-Site Clinics

Large companies are beginning to provide in house clinics. This reduces the amount of time that employees have to take off, to visit healthcare professionals primarily for wellness visits.  This not only saves businesses time and money, but is cost and time effective for employees.

So what are the 2 biggest reasons to go to Urgent Care instead of the ER, if one does not have a life or limb threatening illness or injury?

  1. EXPENSE – Urgent Care bills will be a fraction of the cost of an ER visit.
  2. TIME – Usually the wait time at an urgent care/ on demand facility will be much much less.

It is conservatively estimated that between 13 and 27 percent of emergency room visits, could have easily been treated at an alternative facility. Yearly the savings for these visits could be upwards of  $4.4 billion.

Personal Experience with Urgent Care and Emergency Room treatment.

A year or so back, a grandson who was about a year old, seemed to be rapidly developing a really really bad cold.  My daughter took him to the nearest after hours Urgent Care clinic, since he seemed to be getting sicker and sicker by the minute.   They took them back right away and very quickly realized that he was is need of more skilled treatment. An ambulance was called and while they waited for it’s arrival, the skilled staff got him stabilized for the trip to the nearest hospital.

After further treatment at the community hospital, he was air lifted to a pediatric hospital, where he was diagnosed with severe asthma. After a week long stay, he was released.  Going to the Urgent Care clinic, which was so close to their home, probably saved my little Ashers, life.  Had his mom driven farther to the nearest hospital, he may not have survived. 

Wrap up of what you need to know about Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room Visits

Emergency Rooms are for true life threatening situations. If you are at all in doubt, then head to the ER…but before you get sick or injured the Urgent Care Association of Americaa has these tips for you. 

Remember the Three C’s –  Care / Convenience / Cost.

Care: Evaluate the severity of your symptoms and identify what services you may need. Life- or limb-threatening issues should always send you to the ER. Anything else can likely be treated elsewhere.
Convenience: Know what healthcare facilities are available nearby, as well as their hours of operation, to determine the best option.
Cost: Understand which providers are covered by your insurance, or if there are any requirements such as pre-authorization.

Need to find a healthcare facility? Just click ——–> Where Is Urgent Care.

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About Author

Libby wears many hats. She is a Homemaker*Blogger*Crafter*Reader*Pinner*Teacher*Friend*Animal Lover* Former Early Pregnancy and Childbirth Educator and Substitute Teacher (preK - 12) *Medically Disabled...SURVIVOR! Libby is very happily married to the love of her life (for 41 yeas), the mother of 10 grown children and "Nonnie" to 23 growing grand children. She adores animals, and is "owned" by two furbabies: Gung Poe Wigglebutt ( a Black Pug, who's mission in life is to be her shadow) and Gabriel, SD, CGC, PAT, (her Service Dog, who is a Chocolate Lab/Weimaraner mix). Libby also has two Red Eared Aquatic Turtles, Tucker and Turner, who couldn't care less about her, other than at meal times!

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11 Comments on "Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room"

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Heidi Gray
Editor

Telemedicine is a great advancement! A person can call an 800 number (usually), and can get a determination on whether or not to get urgent care, ER care, or assistance from the medical person on the phone. I’ve heard some insurance companies are beginning to offer this service, as a way to drive down cost. I think it could be an invaluable tool!

Lisa Favre
Guest

I have yet to try telemedicine but I think it’s a great leap in our technology and is absolutely brilliant. I didn’t really realize the difference between urgent care and emergency but you’ve painted a clearer picture on that. The three C’s are so important to remember and that’s a great trick to make sure you keep everything in mind!

Ali Rost
Guest

An urgent care clinic opened in our town in 2016 and it’s wonderful! It’s so nice to get an appointment quickly (even in the evenings). Also we hardly ever have to wait to be seen. Not like a visit to our family doctor where the wait can be really long! I’m so glad you educated us on all of the options out there.

Bites for Foodies
Guest

I’ve come across this debate many times…I have many friends and family members who are nurses (mainly in the ER) and while WE complain that emergency rooms are over-crowded, THEY always say how many cases do not require ER treatment and could be taken care of at urgent care clinics!

Lisa
Editor

This is such a great informative post! Many people are not aware of the difference of urgent care and emergency care. Telemedicine is a great medical resource I have used them myself numerous time and I love that those in remote areas can have access to this service if needed for non emergency concerns.

Tiara
Guest

This was such a great read. I’m one of those mamas that instantly thinks we need to go to the ER for everything.. yeah the crazy mom 😉
Haha. I never really sat down and outweighted which we should go to depending on what was going on with our little one.

Crystal VanTassel-Lopez
Guest

We have been huge fans of the urgent care centers for the last 8 years or so. There is an amazing urgent care center near us that we love. I prefer it to seeing a family doctor. As a family who is self-employed and self-pay I can’t see this ever changing for us.

Jennifer Quisenberry
Guest

These are great tips! I’m a type 1 diabetic, so I typically have a few urgent care /ER visits each year. Urgent Care is definitely cheaper, and is really terrific for a lot of my needs. I just wish our local urgent care options had longer hours. Inevitably, I’ll need care in the middle of the night that can’t wait until morning .

Censie Sawyer
Guest

Great information. With all of the changes in ERs it is important for people to know the difference. WE do everything we can to avoid the ER! Thankfully we have a few very close UC places near us.

Erinn S
Guest

I avoid the ER if at all necessary. Our co-pays are outrageous and takes so much longer to get through it although they do have better access to testing, speed of results so it depends on the symptoms I suppose

Amanda Ke
Guest

I see Urgent Cares popping up everywhere! I didn’t have one close to home before I moved but I think they are great to have. I have never been to any but since I’ve moved I have seen a few around and I will be sure to be making a trip if I need too, let’s just hope I don’t. =)

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