The key distinction is the level of care they provide. Emergency rooms (ER) are staffed 24/7 to provide the highest level of care for the highest level of acuity. They treat highly complex and critical problems, including life- and limb-threatening situations ranging from heart attack and stroke to the worst traumatic injuries. The emergency room is for serious problems like severe abdominal pain, broken bones, facial lacerations, significant injuries, and life-threatening problems like strokes and heart attacks. Severe respiratory infections with low oxygen levels should also be treated in the ER. Finally, situations where admission to the hospital is likely should start in the ER rather than urgent care.
A trip to the urgent care is generally a better use of a patient’s time and resources. Urgent cares are best seen as the after-hours alternative to your doctor’s office. When a patient has a medical issue that would normally be treated by a primary care doctor and the doctor’s office is closed, the urgent care is the right choice. They are equipped to treat minor injuries, fevers, infections, and other common ailments. Many urgent cares can even take x-rays. Another important consideration is that urgent cares usually have shorter wait times than the ER and cost significantly less than a traditional hospital emergency room visit.
If you are uncertain how to manage a medical situation, call us for help. We are here for your 24/7/365.