Urgent care clinics and emergency rooms provide resources for emergency situations. Maybe the primary care physician’s office is closed. Maybe the person doesn’t have a PCP, to begin with. Or maybe the injury or illness is too severe and needs the attention of emergency physicians. Whatever the reason, it can be difficult to decide on urgent care or the emergency room.
Differences Between the Two
Urgent care and the ER are not synonymous, and they deal with different ailments, though there is overlap. There are a few key differences to be aware of before choosing, including:
- Severity – The severity of your injury or illness will largely dictate which you choose. An urgent care center can provide anything you see your PCP for, including services for fractures, sprains, and cuts. The emergency room will have access to all of a hospital’s resources and are better for more severe illnesses and injuries. If you’re not sure how severe an injury or sickness is, you can try urgent care first and they will decide whether or not you need to go to the ER.
- Cost – The cost between urgent care and the ER is also different. The emergency room will be significantly more expensive due to the resources available and the fact that it’s a part of a hospital. An urgent care clinic will be a better option if the health problem isn’t life-threatening and you want to be mindful of your wallet.
- Wait Times – The wait times at an urgent care center differ from the emergency room. Medical professionals in the emergency room take the severity of cases into account when deciding who to bring back and when. If your case is severe, you will be seen right away. If not, it can take hours. Urgent care does this, too, but they are usually less busy than the ER due to the multiple clinics that will operate in one location. According to the Urgent Care Association, 90% of all urgent care centers got patients in to see a healthcare provider in 30 minutes or less. If you aren’t dealing with a severe injury or illness, the urgent care center will likely get you in and out faster.
When to Go to The ER
Now you understand some of the differences between the two medical centers, so let’s get into the details. Call 911 or go to the ER if you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of life-threatening problems, including:
- Loss of consciousness
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Pain in the left jaw or left arm
- Cuts and bleeding that won’t stop
- Serious burns
- Severe allergic reactions (swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing)
- Fractures, especially if the bone is protruding from the skin
- Coughing or throwing up blood
- Stroke symptoms (numbness & tingling, slurred speech, facial droop)
- Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
- High fevers
- Drug overdoses
- A concussion or suspected head injury
The emergency room has the necessary resources to handle these severe and potentially life-threatening medical problems. They have radiological equipment (MRIs, X-Rays, ultrasounds, and more) and operating rooms for surgery. ERs are also staffed with medical professionals of various specialties, so you know someone will be able to treat you.
When to Go to Urgent Care
An urgent care clinic will handle less severe cases, as stated above. These include:
- Moderate flu
- Nausea and moderate vomiting
- Moderate headaches
- Low-grade fevers
- Mild rashes
- Minor fractures and sprains
- Minor cuts and burns
While urgent care clinicians can provide you with high-quality and knowledgeable medical care, they don’t have access to the same resources, such as heavy-duty radiological equipment or operating rooms. They can give x-rays, stitch up cuts, provide casts, and fill out prescriptions, but cannot perform life-saving surgery or conduct a CAT Scan. The lower wait times and cost are enticing, but you need to evaluate the symptoms carefully before making a decision. If they seem severe, it’s better to go to the ER.
No matter the choice, urgent care clinics and emergency rooms provide us with quick access to expert medical care. If you need services from an urgent care clinic, contact Care Station Medical Group. We provide experienced healthcare for a variety of patients in New Jersey. Visit our website or call today for more information.