You are cooking your weekend special. Alas! While slicing meat, you accidentally slice your finger. The cut looks terrible, which seems pretty deep, and the bleeding isn’t just stopping. However, the pain is not that intense; it may need stitches. Where will you go now – emergency care or urgent care?
People always face this confusion and can’t decide where to go for their treatment, as both facilities provide immediate care for your health condition. That’s why it’s necessary to know the difference between urgent care and emergency care. Let’s dig deeper to know the difference between urgent care and emergency room and when you should go there.
What Is Urgent Care?
Urgent care centers are booming in the US for their immediate and efficient services. It’s a walk-in facility that provides care to patients with an illness or injury that is not life-threatening- small cut, minor burn, eye infection, fever, flu, diarrhea, etc.
When your primary doctor is unavailable, or you do not have any primary doctor, an urgent care center is suitable for treating your non-life-threatening condition. A certified physician is always there to assist you with a nurse practitioner or a nurse. Urgent care also provides lab testing services, such as X-rays, blood pressure testing, and pregnancy tests. They also offer regular immunization and all types of vaccination necessary for any international trip.
Urgent care centers are open for all who do not need an appointment and are affordable and convenient as you don’t have to wait longer. However, you have to remember that they only treat medical conditions that are not serious and life-threatening, like heart attack, stroke, severe injury, etc.
What Is Emergency Care?
If you’re facing severe conditions, such as continuous bleeding, trauma, chest pain, or sign of stroke, run to an emergency room.
Emergency care provides treatment for severe injury or life-threatening medical conditions. Emergency care is equipped with certified physicians, staff, and technicians to provide you immediate service for the condition that can cost a life. In emergency care, all the physicians, physician assistants, nurses, and technicians have the proper training to deal with any emergency condition requiring immediate medical attention.
The team also has quick access to specialists such as Cardiology, Neurology, and Orthopedics when needed. Emergency care provides imaging and laboratory testing to diagnose and deliver care for severe and life-threatening conditions. However, you may have to wait for a bit; the staff will take care of your condition soon and will provide the best possible treatment you require.
Difference Between Urgent Care and Emergency Care
Urgent care and emergency care both offer immediate attention to your urgent medical condition. For a severe cut where your bleeding isn’t stopping or a moderate back pain, it’s always confusing to decide where to go. However, if you know the difference between services provided by the two facilities, your task will be a lot easier. You won’t stare at the sky questioning the emergency room or urgent care with blood dripping from your hand.
Level Of Your Health Condition Severity
The severity of your condition – the primary difference between the emergency room and urgent care. Urgent care also provides immediate service. However, urgent care only deals with non-life-threatening and minor conditions that will not cost any life. They also offer certified physician and lab- testing. However, they can not run any sophisticated imaging tests like MRI or CT scans to diagnose your problem. An emergency care deals with an emergency condition or situation. An emergency room offers on-site laboratories, diagnostic imaging tests, and board-certified doctors handle any life-threatening medical emergency.
For severe conditions like significant injury and trauma, chest pain, signs of stroke, or badly broken bone, proceed to an emergency room. If your injury is deep and requires stitches but no longer bleeding or a minor fracture, go to urgent care.
However, do not go to the emergency room or urgent care for dental pain. The physicians and staffs rarely practice dentistry, and it’s rare to get a dentist on call in both facilities. The best thing they can do is provide a pain killer for your toothache and refer you to a dentist. However, there are dental urgent care centers in the US where you can treat your dental pain. So, check first if the urgent care provides dental care or not.
Different Services and Treatment
Urgent care usually offers services for conditions that need immediate attention but are not life-threatening. They include-
- Cold, flu, and fever
- Moderate back or muscle pain
- Cuts and minor burns
- Eye infection
- Skin rashes
- Upper respiratory infection
- Urinary tract infections
- Sore throat
- Allergic reaction
- Sports injuries
- Sprains, strains, and dislocations
- Ligament tears
- Blood tests
- Pregnancy Test
- Well-being checkup
Emergency care deals with severe conditions that need immediate medical attention that can cost a life if delayed. They are also capable of running sophisticated lab testing to diagnose the condition to deal with it. Their services include-
- Chest pain or pressure
- Stroke symptoms
- Compound fracture or broken bone, especially if a bone is protruding from the skin.
- Head injuries
- Motor vehicle accident injuries
- Coughing or throwing up blood
- Severe abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of consciousness
- Sudden, severe headache, or paralysis or weakness
- Uncontrolled and severe bleeding
- Ingestion or inhalation of poisonous materials
- Critical allergic reactions involving hives, swelling, or breathing difficulties
- Very high fevers
Doctors and Staffs
An urgent care has expert staff and technicians ready to assist you. Usually, urgent care includes a certified medical doctor to prescribe medication and diagnose your condition. They can also refer you to a specialist if needed. They are often accompanied by physician assistants, nurses,s and radiologists to perform X-rays and lab testings. Emergency care provides 24/7 services with expert doctors, staff, and technicians. All the doctors are board-certified who can handle any acute health problem or traumatic injuries.
Emergency care has expert technicians to run an advanced test like MRI and CT scan to diagnose your condition. In addition, they have quick access to any specialist like Cardiology, Neurology, or Orthopedics. However, an ER doctor can not perform surgery. But they can perform some procedures of making incisions in your body in an emergency- inserting chest tubes and thoracotomies.
Time and Convenience
An urgent care center has set service hours. Most urgent care centers are open at least 12 hours a day on weekdays. Many urgent care centers open as early as 7 a.m. and close at midnight. On weekends, many remain open till 8 p.m. Therefore, it’s convenient for the patients to get medical attention after working hours when their primary doctors are unavailable. Moreover, with the set working hours, you have to wait shorter than any emergency room.
Emergency cares are open 24/7, ready to provide immediate medical attention to acute, severe, and life-threatening conditions. However, you may have to wait longer to get medication attention from their staff as emergency rooms are always crowded with patients.
Urgent care vs. emergency care – the expense. Is urgent care more expensive or emergency care?
Urgent care is less expensive than emergency care. An average urgent care visit may cost $120-200. Usually, the total cost depends on the services you have taken from urgent care – injections, medications, X-ray, or casting bones.
Visiting an emergency room for your treatment is always expensive. The average cost is maybe $1,3000 – $1500. If you need an ambulance to the emergency room, it will add to your total cost that may extend to an extra $400-$1200 depending on your location and condition.
Although urgent clinics are convenient and affordable, you have to remember that they can’t treat any condition that can cause disability or cost your life. If you have a condition that is not severe or life-threatening, you can choose urgent care over an emergency room. However, if you have severe symptoms and injuries that can be life-threatening if not attend immediately, your only destination is an emergency room.
Urgent care and emergency care both provide immediate medical attention to your health condition. However, when it comes to immediate attention, time is crucial. So, with a long wait and more pocket-price, the emergency room isn’t always a practical decision. There comes urgent care with their convenient and affordable immediate medical attention.
MyConciergeMD, is the best exclusive urgent care near you where you will get excellent service with the Board-Certified in Internal Medicine and Specialist in Concierge Medicine & Executive Health. Dr. Nazarian. He practices Integrative Medicine with a focus on our preventative medicine and your holistic well-being.