Medical care for a sprained ankle, broken bone, or other acute injury or illness is necessary, although a question that often comes up for many people when they get sick or injured is, “what type of medical facility do I visit to receive the proper care I feel I need for my condition?” This article helps to clear up any confusion around the differences between healthcare at a walk-in medical clinic (or “urgent care clinic”) and a standalone (or “hospital-based”) emergency room so you make the right decision when the need arises.
- Emergency rooms (ERs) are for life-threatening medical conditions that require immediate medical care, such as heart attacks, compound fractures, deep lacerations, electrical shocks, severe allergic reactions, etc. These conditions often require additional procedures to properly treat.
- Urgent Care clinics (or “walk-in medical centers”) are for treating acute (but less severe) illnesses and injuries such as common colds, minor sprains/fractures, and quick diagnostic tests (such as COVID-19 Rapid Testing).
Differences between Urgent Care Clinics and Emergency Room (ER) Centers
Urgent Care Clinic
When to Visit (Types of Conditions)
Life (or Limb) – threatening situations
Minor diagnostic testing and less extensive therapies and procedures.
Extensive diagnostic care, resuscitation, and emergency treatments & surgeries aimed at the stabilization of critical conditions.
Less expensive copay – ($100 – $200)
More expensive copay – ($1,000-$1200)
Hours of Operation
Usually open conveniently on weekdays with more limited hours on weekends
24 hours a day /
365 days a year –
Usually not more than an hour
May take up to several hours
Multiple standalone locations conveniently located near you
Standalone or attached to emergency department in hospitals
Doctors, Nurses, Physician Assistants
Doctors, Nurses, Specialists
Usually basic diagnostic equipment (X-Rays, Lab Test Equipment, etc.)
Well equipped with latest equipment (MRI, CT Scans, EKG, Ultrasound, etc.
|Features||Urgent Care Clinic||Emergency Rooms|
|When to Visit (Types of Conditions)||Acute Illnesses & Injuries||Life (or Limb) – threatening situations|
|Treatment||Minor diagnostic testing and less extensive therapies and procedures.||Extensive diagnostic care, resuscitation, and emergency treatments & surgeries aimed at the stabilization of critical conditions.|
|Cost||Less expensive copay – ($100 – $200)||More expensive copay – ($1,000-$1200)|
|Hours of Operation||Usually open conveniently on weekdays with more limited hours on weekends||24 hours a day / 365 days a year – never closes|
|Waiting Time||Usually not more than an hour||May take up to several hours|
|Location||Multiple standalone locations conveniently located near you||Standalone or attached to emergency department in hospitals|
|Personnel||Doctors, Nurses, Physician Assistants||Doctors, Nurses, Specialists|
|Equipment||Usually basic diagnostic equipment (X-Rays, Lab Test Equipment, etc.)||Well equipped with latest equipment (MRI, CT Scans, EKG, Ultrasound, etc.|
Conditions that Require Treatment at an Emergency Room (ER) Center
ERs are built and staffed specifically for saving people’s lives and ensuring full recovery of the affected body part/organ after serious, life-threatening injuries, disorders, or diseases. These medical centers are usually attached to hospitals and equipped to handle any case that comes into the facility. Highly advanced diagnostic equipment supported by surgeons, specialists, and diagnostic labs (to get test results back quickly) are all reasons why severe injuries should only be treated at an emergency room facility.
Here’s a list of some of the situations handled by emergency rooms:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty in breathing
- Serious trauma
- Severe burns
- Severe head injuries
- Major Accidents (severe fractures, head injuries, wounds, etc.)
- Severe abdominal pain
- Severe/continuous vomiting
- Deep cuts and/or abrasions with uncontrollable bleeding
- Pregnancy-related medical conditions
- Electrical shock
- Severe allergic reactions
- Compound fractures
- Heart attack or Stroke
- Loss of Vision
Conditions Treated at a Walk-In Medical Center (Urgent Care Clinic)
For acute illnesses or injuries that are less severe yet still require immediate medical attention, a visit to an urgent care clinic is a wise decision. The name “urgent care” conveys the type of medical care provided at these clinics – treating acute medical conditions that need care quickly yet not severe enough to warrant a visit to an ER. This is one reason why walk-in medical centers do not accept patients from ambulances. Urgent Care Centers have in-house medical practitioners offering care for minor medical conditions or diagnostics (X-rays or basic lab tests) – without a prior appointment.
Here’s a list of some of the situations handled by Urgent Care Clinics:
- Cold, Cough & Flu Treatment
- Diagnostic Testing (COVID-19, Flu, RSV)
- Minor Strains/Sprains
- Allergy Symptoms
- Lacerations (Wound Repair)
- Ear infection
- Minor injuries
- Animal/insect bites
Urgent Care vs. ER – Key Differences
- Cost – The copay for a one-time treatment at an emergency room center is approximately $1,000 – $1200. The copay for a one-time treatment at an urgent care center is approximately $100 – $200. Both facilities should be in-network with major insurance carriers and usually offer self-pay rates.
- Hours of Operation – Emergency room centers are required to be open 24 hours a day – 365 days a year. Urgent Care clinics are usually open 7 days a week with convenient hours during the week and slightly reduced hours over weekends.
- Personnel – Emergency room centers are staffed with surgeons, doctors, nurses, and physician’s assistants as many required treatments are comprehensive and require skilled and experienced specialists. The number of staff members is also likely to be high for serving multiple emergency cases. The urgent care staff consists of experienced doctors, nurses and/or physician’s assistants who are trained and qualified in treating various acute conditions.
- Equipment – ERs are equipped with extensive diagnostic and lab equipment with significant in-house testing capabilities required for advanced medical diagnosis and procedures. Equipment at Urgent Care clinics is limited and geared to treating acute injuries and acute illnesses while providing some diagnostic testing.
Prime Urgent Care – Quick & Reliable Urgent Care
Prime Urgent Care is a Houston-based urgent care provider that operates clinics in Pearland, Missouri City and Sugar Land in Texas. We are offering state-of-the-art medical facilities to treat you and your family with an online check-in option so you can wait for your appointment in the comfort of your own home. If you prefer to stay at home, Prime Urgent Care offers convenient telemedicine appointment options, so you meet with your provider over video on a cell phone or computer. Our physicians are certified in treating various acute illnesses, injuries, wounds, sprains/strains and minor fractures. We also offer school, sports and DOT physicals at both our clinics.
If you need a need a negative COVID-19 test quickly to travel or attend an event, we also offer a variety of Rapid COVID-19 tests at competitive self-pay rates – $165 for the RAPID PCR Test and $135 for the RAPID ANTIGEN Test. In addition, we provide same-day results and charge no provider visit fee.
We are open 7 days a week (Weekdays – 8 AM to 8 PM; Weekends – 9 AM to 5 PM).