The difference between urgent care and the emergency room
It’s late on a weekend night. The stores and the doctor’s office are long closed, then someone you love cuts themselves deeply, or trips and sprains their ankle. Or perhaps your baby gets a sudden, high fever. They need medical care — but do they need to go to the local hospital emergency room, with its long wait times, or the urgentcare clinic?
Knowing what urgent care is and what its strengths are will help you make that crucial decision between urgent care and emergency medical care. When the health of you or your family is at stake, understanding the differences in facility care types is critical.
What is urgent care?
Urgent care is another term for urgent care. It’s a place where you can get immediate medical attention for an illness or injury when your family physician’s office is closed, during weekends, evenings and holidays.
Hospital emergency rooms are often crowded with people who do not need the full range of health and emergency resources available there. urgent care is the right choice when you or someone you know needs immediate medical attention for an issue that is serious, but not life-threatening. Turning to urgent care allows the emergency room to devote its resources to the people who need them most.
Many people feel confused by the difference between emergency care and urgent care. Both refer to issues that need attention quickly. But there are clear distinctions between the two.
Hospital emergency rooms are set up and staffed for the most complex and critical situations, including life-threatening situations like trauma from a car accident, heart attack or stroke.
Urgent care clinics or urgent care clinics are for illnesses or injuries you would normally take to your primary health care provider, when they’re available. These include:
- -injuries from falls;
- -minor bone fractures, such as in fingers or toes;
- -cuts that are not bleeding heavily, but still require stitches to close;
- -sprains and strains;
- -fever or flu;
- -vomiting, diarrhea or dehydration;
- -eye irritation;
- -mild breathing difficulties, such as caused by asthma;
- -severe sore throat or cough;
- -skin rashes, and;
- -urinary tract infections.
When to go to the hospital emergency department
Although an urgent care facility can handle some of the following, hospital emergency rooms are well-equipped to treat:
- -symptoms of heart attack, which are chest pain that lasts longer than two minutes accompanied by difficulty breathing;
- -symptoms of stroke, which are loss of vision, sudden numbness, muscle weakness, slurred speech or confusion;
- -serious head injury;
- -compound bone fractures — where the bone protrudes through the skin;
- -moderate to serious burns;
- -heavy, uncontrollable bleeding;
- -fevers in newborns under three months old;
- -severe abdominal pain;
- -difficulty breathing, and;
- -suicidal feelings.
Urgent care clinics can set smaller bones, such as fingers and toes, stitch deep cuts and provide counselling.
There is one other important difference that impacts nearly everyone, no matter the type of care they are getting, and that's the cost. While averages can vary widely, hospital emergency room services are always much more expensive than urgent care clinics — up to seven times more.
What to bring with you
You can prepare for emergencies, whether they require urgent care or the hospital emergency room by keeping lists of the medical profile of each person in your household. This should include:
- -all allergies and long-term medical conditions;
- -all surgeries and other major medical treatments they’ve had, and;
- -all medications they take, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements.
Urgent care providers need this information to make the right diagnosis and prescribe appropriate treatment. Having it ready to go when an urgent health issue arises can save precious seconds, seconds that might make a difference.
We’re here for you
Don't ever forget that FirstMed Urgent Care Clinic is here for you when you need urgent care in West Jordan Utah.