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How To Decide: Emergency Room Or Urgent Care

If someone is ill or hurt, the person may be uncertain whether to go to urgent care or the emergency room. Each option has a place and, in order to make a choice, the patient must make an evaluation of the condition. One of the things to consider is the seriousness of the condition and whether the condition can be treated by one physician or whether a team of specialists is needed.

When To Go To The Emergency Room vs Urgent Care

When to choose urgent care

Urgent care offices provide quick access to healthcare during times when a patient’s usual primary care physician is not available. This type of care facility allows a patient to receive treatment during holidays, weekends, and nights. In general, urgent care staff perform the types of routine treatment that a primary care physician would, such as treating cases of flu, strep throat, sprained ankles, ear infections, and minor cuts requiring stitches.

In general, an urgent care clinic does not have an operating room. However, urgent care may offer simple lab tests and x-rays. These centers also provide pediatric care. Some offices will also perform physicals for work or schools and sports.

When to choose the emergency room

Hospitals are prepared for just about anything, so a patient who has a serious illness or injury should go straight to the emergency room. There, doctors are equipped to treat emergency health issues 24/7. As well as operating rooms, emergency rooms have access to ultrasounds, radiology labs, MRI, and CAT scans as well as a wide range of doctors with various fields of expertise. Unlike urgent care, an emergency room has beds for patients who are seriously ill and need overnight care.

How quick is treatment and how costly?

In an urgent care facility, wait times will vary depending on how many members of staff are working at any given time and the number of patients coming in for treatment. In a hospital setting, patients are admitted using a system known as triage, which gives priority to the more serious cases. For example, someone having a heart attack will be treated before someone with a sprained ankle. The cost of treatment also differs; for an emergency room visit, most patients will pay more than for an urgent care consultation.

Making a quick decision

Sometimes individuals need to make a very quick decision about where to go for care. In a severe medical emergency such as a heart attack, stroke, or uncontrolled bleeding, every second counts and patients should always go to the emergency room as quickly as possible. For less serious injuries or conditions which still need an immediate evaluation or treatment, urgent care is usually the best option.