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What’s the Difference Between Urgent Medical Care and Emergency Rooms?

Are you confused about the different types of medical care facilities? If you break your finger, should you attend the Emergency Room (ER) or the Urgent Care facility? While visiting the emergency room may cost you more money than visiting an urgent medical care facility, urgent care facilities can be limited on the amount of technology available to treat certain serious conditions. If you suspect you have a life-threatening condition, go to the ER; however, for minor problems, like a common cold, you may be able to save money and time by visiting an urgent care center.

Emergency Room Visits

Emergency rooms are open for 24-hours a day. Their primary goal is to treat patients with life-threatening emergencies. If you are waiting to be seen by the doctor, new patients (who have more serious injuries) can push back this wait time. Hospitals are required by law to treat anyone that checks-in to the emergency room. Emergency room waiting times, however, are on the rise. If your injury or illness is not life-threatening or serious, you may want to consider making a trip to the urgent medical care facility instead.

What is an Urgent Medical Care facility?

Urgent medical care facilities help when there is a problem related to a less extreme injury or illness. Urgent care centers help to reduce the patient load on hospital emergency rooms through the early-evening hours. Most centers will provide care after 5pm until 10pm. They are open for a few hours and on weekends to provide care to patients with less extreme health issues.

If healthcare workers at an urgent medical care facility believe your situation is too serious to be treated at that location, they will typically refer you to the ER. The urgent medical care center is focused on helping patients when they are unable to meet with their primary physician.

Where Can I Find an Urgent Care facility?

Some urgent care centers are attached to hospitals, while others operate as separate medical facilities. One of the great things about using urgent medical care facilities is the cost: most ER visits can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, whereas an urgent medical care facility can cost significantly less. In addition, insurance companies usually pay more money for urgent care visits compared to ER visits. Some insurance companies may not pay for ER visits if the medical emergency was not deemed a true emergency. This can leave you with an expensive bill to pay on your own. Urgent Medical Care facilities will also typically offer a single charge, rather than multiple bills. The ER can charge you a fee for the visit and a separate charge from the doctor.

Cut Down on Wait Time

The wait time at an ER can last for several hours. The patients with the most serious injuries or conditions are treated first, which means you can sit for a long time before receiving treatment. If you have a minor or non-life-threatening injury, heading to an urgent medical care facility can save you a lot of time as patients are treated on a first-come, first-serve basis.

While a life-threatening injury will necessitate a trip to the emergency room, consider utilizing the services at urgent care facilities for less severe injuries.

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