medical bed inside clinical room

How to Choose Urgent Care over the Emergency Room

Injuries and illnesses happen at the most inopportune times. Whether it is at work, home, or somewhere else, an unexpected medical event requires either urgent care or an emergency room (ER).

Before going straight to the ER you should always consider when to use an urgent care center over an ER in a hospital or elsewhere.

An urgent care center may usually provide lower costs, and lower out-of-pocket rates for uninsured members, than an ER. An urgent care center also has a time-saving advantage over an ER: most patients can walk-in and receive urgent care in minutes compared to long waits at an ER.

However, it is important to know when an urgent care center or ER is needed based on the severity of a medical event. Here is a simple guide on when to use an urgent care center over the ER:

Any minor injuries, infections, and illnesses should be treated at an urgent care center

Sudden minor injuries and illnesses should be treated at an urgent care center. However, it is hard to determine when a medical event is truly “minor.” Minor injuries, infections, and illnesses treatable at a medical center include:

  • Broken bones and sprains
  • Symptoms of the common cold and influenza
  • Cuts, scrapes, and lacerations
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bacterial and virus infections
  • Minor burns
  • Removal of foreign objects
  • Allergies and asthma

You may read the list above and contend that certain medical events like bone breaks require emergency care. However, urgent care provides immediate treatment for a surprising amount of medical situations.

Use an ER for life-threatening and critical medical emergencies

Simply put, an ER is absolutely necessary in order to treat the most severe and critical medical situations. In no particular order, below is a list of key medical situations that require an ER:

  • A gunshot or wound that won’t stop bleeding
  • Difficulty breathing or intense asphyxiation
  • Ingestion of toxic chemicals or poisonous substances
  • Sudden inability to move or speak
  • Bone breaks that penetrate the skin
  • Severe headache or head injury
  • Severe 3rd and 4th-degree burns
  • High fever that doesn’t improve after medication

An ER is equipped with life-saving technology and services, such as emergency surgery care, for the most critical medical events. A patient that is need of an ER should go to the nearest emergency care facility ASAP.

Your health is one of the most important parts of your life to maintain and preserve. Make sure you evaluate any injuries accurately and seek out the ideal provider. Using urgent care and the ER appropriately can save your time, your money, and most importantly, your wellbeing.