Do you know when you need to go to the ER versus urgent care?
A considerable number of Americans misuse their local emergency room by seeking care for non-urgent problems, like non-severe symptoms of a disease or minor injuries. But where should you go when something isn’t right, and your doctor is unavailable?
Urgent care is there for precisely those moments. What is urgent care, and when should you go? Keep reading for our complete guide to using the urgent care system.
What Is Urgent Care?
Urgent care centers served patients who can’t reach their primary care physician but who do not have a life-threatening emergency or illness.
These centers provide the same care as you might find in your doctor’s office, but they remain open outside of traditional hours. They’re also available when you can’t get an appointment with your general physician in a period of time that suits your needs.
If you need an urgent appointment during the day, at night, or on the weekend, you can trust urgent care.
When Should I Go to Urgent Care?
Urgent care can help you out of many kinds of scrapes. You can visit urgent care for help with:
- Minor accidents or slip and falls
- Minor cuts requiring a few stitches
- Mild to moderate asthma
- Fever or flu
- Minor broken bones or fractures
- Laboratory tests (get your immigration medical exam at urgent care by searching USCIS near me)
- Minor infections
These are all reasons to visit urgent care – if you can’t visit your doctor first.
When Should I Go to the Emergency Room?
The emergency room still serves a specific purpose that the resources found at urgent care can’t fill.
Anytime you have an emergency, you should always dial 911 or go straight to the ER.
What is an emergency? An emergency is an injury, illness, or condition that can endanger your life if left untreated for even a short period.
Some of the conditions or injuries best treated by the ER include:
- Seizures and convulsions
- Pregnancy-related issues
- Fever in newborn babies
- Heart attack symptoms
- Stroke symptoms
- Serious head, neck, or back injuries
- Severe chest pain
- Severe abdominal pain
- Knife wounds
- Gunshot wounds
- Compound fractures
- Heavy bleeding
- Suicidal ideation or behaviors
If you or someone you love experiences an injury or condition listed above or something that you believes threatens their life, then visit the closest ER.
An emergency room has both the specialists, equipment, and connections to treat life-threatening issues promptly.
What If I Go to Urgent Care When I Should Have Gone to the ER?
If the staff at your local urgent care center suspect something serious, then they will transfer you directly to an emergency room or the hospital so you can get the treatment you need.
Why Choose Urgent Care?
Visiting urgent care makes a lot of sense for most of us. The centers are specialists in treating minor emergencies, including injuries and medical conditions, to take care of small problems before they escalate.
There are also other serious benefits that everyone should be aware of including:
- Shorter wait times
- Saving money on treatment
- Helping ERs run more efficiently
Your decision to visit urgent care has knock-on effects. Here’s why.
Shorter Wait Times
If you walk into an ER, then you walk into a clinic dedicated to saving lives in the immediate future.
As a result, the ER triages patients as they arrive. Those with the worst emergencies (who often arrive by ambulance) head straight into the clinic. If you come with something less pressing, you could be stuck waiting for hours – if you’re lucky.
Otherwise healthy patients who arrive with flu symptoms, minor cuts, or sprains receive treatment when the nurses and doctors have time. You could spend hours or even a whole day in the waiting room because life-threatening injuries all take priority.
Urgent care is more like a doctor’s office. Care providers mainly see you on a first come-first serve basis or even accept appointments.
Finally, by going to urgent care instead of the ER, you help reduce the wait times for people who need to be there.
It’s a win-win for everyone.
The cost of visiting the ER depends on your location and the treatment you need. But one thing remains true regardless of those factors: the ER is expensive.
Why is this universally true? ER doctors aren’t out to get you. However, the cost of managing an ER is more expensive than clinical practice or urgent care.
The median cost of the average emergency room visit is $1,233. At the same time, some estimates suggest the median can reach as high as $2,168.
On the contrary, the average visit to an urgent care center costs $150.
Experts estimate that we could save $18 billion a year as a nation by skipping the ER and taking problems to urgent care centers instead.
Emergency rooms and emergency room workers face a series of pressures both internally and externally. One of the greatest challenges everyone involved faces is capacity.
As our population ages and more people live longer with the effects of chronic disease, emergency departments need to allot more time for patients while also seeing more patients.
We can reduce some of the pressure by triaging ourselves via urgent care centers. In turn, it reduces not only capacity but keeps people who are uninsured or underinsured from unnecessary spending, which helps alleviate some financial pressure facing ERs.
Find Your Local Urgent Care
What is urgent care? It’s there for you when you have the flu, cut your hand, or fracture a toe.
If your injury or illness isn’t life-threatening, then visiting urgent care will save you time and money. It also takes the pressure of your local ER and helps the healthcare system as a whole.
Plus, if you go to urgent care and you still need to visit the hospital, you’ll get a referral to get right into the ER.
Do you want to take charge of your health? Check out our post on medical websites like WebMD.