Should you bring medical problems to the emergency room or an urgent care facility. Some of the confusion people have over this choice is probably due to the words "urgent care." When is it urgent, and when is it an emergency?
The Emergency Room is for Emergencies
One way to look at it is to remember the emergency room is for immediate help in cases of severe injury or problems. Consider who typically leaves for the emergency room in an ambulance. It's usually people with a problem that is either life threatening or can become so if not treated immediately.
It's true not all issues that make it to the emergency room are life-threatening. In fact, that actually represents one reason urgent care facilities exist. If you go to the emergency room for something that's not an immediate emergency, you will still have to pay emergency room prices for care.
Urgent Care is for Urgent but Non-Life-Threatening Treatment
Urgent care facilities can replace the emergency room for practically anything outside of something life-threatening. This includes all the things people may consider the emergency room for, like inexplicable stomach pains. If you have pain, feel unwell, or have a cut, then you should consider an urgent care facility.
You Will Likely Have a Shorter Wait with Urgent Care
Emergency rooms typically operate on a priority system. If you go to the emergency room because of a sore throat, you will likely have to wait until doctors and staff have seen to all other priority cases first. If new emergencies come through the door, you will have to wait for those as well.
By contrast, an urgent care facility can help you get in and out quickly and efficiently. In addition, it's usually far cheaper to visit an urgent care clinic.
Urgent Care isn't a Substitute for the ER
It's important to know when to go to the ER. An urgent care facility can help in many situations, but you should never skip the ER if you feel it's necessary. If you feel unsure of what type of help you need, then you likely need the ER.
It's not all about life-threatening problems. If you have severe pain, seizures, head injuries, or anything else debilitating, then go into the emergency room immediately.
Understand You Have Options
Urgent care facilities represent an option. They're ideal for many medical issues. However, they cannot replace a necessary emergency room visit.
It's a good idea to locate your nearest urgent care facilities and see what kinds of things they deal with. That way, when a problem occurs, you'll already know if it's a good idea to seek urgent care or the ER.