When you need medical treatment, and you can’t wait for the next available appointment at your primary care provider, you’re left with a choice – emergency room or urgent care? Emergency rooms are the obvious choice for life-threatening injuries and illness, but if your condition is less severe, then there may be another option. Urgent Care Centers are popping up all around the nation faster than ever. Let’s break it down and try to understand precisely what the difference is.
Urgent care centers are designed to be an alternative to the traditional emergency room setting. They’re equipped with the same expert doctors and nurses, as well as top of the line medical equipment. Urgent care centers offer extended hours, and some are even open 24 hours a day. Urgent care centers typically treat:
- Respiratory infections
- Sinus infections
- Small cuts and abrasions
- Minor broken bones
Many urgent cares can also provide flu shots, physicals, and STD testing. These centers operate on a first come first serve basis with an average wait time of less than an hour.
Emergency rooms are something most people are familiar with. They’re designed to save lives, but often become clogged with non-emergent cases. They treat patients based on the level of severity. That means that if your case is non-emergent, you could be left waiting for hours before being processed. Emergency rooms can directly admit people into the hospital if they require further treatment. Just like urgent care, an emergency room will have experienced staff and all the equipment you may need for surgery.
Consider the Cost
The cost is what truly sets these two treatment options apart. An urgent care center can save people an estimated $18 billion per year if they visit there instead of an ER for non-emergent cases. They’re able to accept most insurance, typically with a lower copay than an ER too. Emergency rooms are notorious for offering overpriced treatment. You may not have to pay anything at the time of treatment, but you can look forward to a large hospital bill to be delivered to you soon after.
Ultimately, visiting urgent care just makes more sense if your life is not in danger. You’ll be treated faster and receive the same quality care, all at a fraction of the cost! Next time you’re in need of some medical attention, give your local urgent care center a try. Your wallet will thank you!