The difference between urgent care and the emergency room. Many Americans face this question on a regular basis. We are taught in our mind that urgent care is like an ER, but for less severe issues. This assumption, while somewhat correct, comes with caveats that may influence your decision on where you will be going to see a physician when you feel unwell.
At the very core, urgent care can be viewed as a normal doctor's office. Just like you would go see a primary care provider, you could go to an urgent care for minor injuries or ailments. Most urgent cares are not 24/7 and they are fully and legally capable of denying service based on your insurance status. Yes, you read that last line correctly. URGENT CARE CAN DECIDE TO NOT TREAT YOU IF YOU ARE UNINSURED. Those with an Emergency Room background can probably empathize with the shock that a notion like this can create.
There is also the aspect of wait times. At urgent care facilities, wait times are usually much shorter when compared to their emergency room option.
“Choosing an urgent care center over the emergency room (ER) can save you time and money.” -Cigna 2019
This is great if you are insured as there is usually a decent contracted rate or low out of pocket for the sick or injured, but urgent care facilities can only do so much. Its quicker, cheaper, and physician-staffed (for the most part) just like an ER.
This is where you go if you are experiencing a legitimate life or limb-threatening injury. Often times, this is the only option for those with that horrible flu that forces them to need fluids, and unfortunately, those are the individuals that wait. There will be a different article explaining the process for when you do decide to go to the ER.
One time an individual in the waiting room left without being seen because they had other appointments to go to…those are not life threatening if you are able to make appointments and the ER is cutting into your other errands.
Emergency rooms are for emergencies. If it can wait, try and wait. If you think it could be something that is life threatening but turns out was acid reflux, an ER trip is warranted. I won’t say to not go to am ER if you’re sick, but use common sense. If there is any doubt in your mind about the severity, I recommend going to the ER to make sure you’re not in imminent danger.
Unlike Urgent Care, ERs MUST provide medical screening or perform emergent and life saving interventions regardless of insurance or ability to pay.
Which is for you?
I will let you decide this. You now know the differences. Decide how you feel and make a common sense call. But please cancel other appointments to accommodate your ER visit.