Going to the ER vs. Urgent Care. What’s the Difference

What is the difference between an urgent care center and an emergency center? In case of an emergency, which is the best place to report to? Where are you likely to receive quicker and better medical attention? Here is a look at the commonly confused medical facilities and the differences in their operation;

Urgent Care

Urgent care centers are alternatives to the doctor’s office. The thinking behind them was to provide easy and accessible health care to patients when they can reach their primary care physicians. They therefore operate past 6.00P.m and will be open during weekends and national holidays.

Urgent care centers are designed to provide care to patients suffering from illnesses and injuries that are not life-threatening per se. All they do therefore, is provide care for the patients who are suffering from mild conditions which cannot wait until their primary care physicians can treat them.

Emergency rooms

Emergency rooms on the other hand, are facilities which are designed, staffed and equipped to offer urgent medical care to patients 24 hours a day all year round. They are capable of handling almost any form of emergency. From motor accident victims to simple headaches, the emergency rooms are staffed and equipped to handle medical emergencies at any time of the day.

So, what are the differences between the two facilities? When you visit the ER or Urgent Care, what difference do you expect?

Differences between Urgent Care and Emergency Rooms

Complexity of medical conditions handled

As mentioned above, emergency rooms are capable of treating most forms of diseases and emergencies and are just as equipped as hospital emergency rooms. Urgent care facilities on the other hand, treat minor medical conditions and are not well-equipped.

Urgent care centers treat emergencies like sinus infections, minor wounds and fever while emergency rooms handle almost all types of medical conditions and emergencies. These diseases and emergencies include; deep wounds, chest pains, shortness of breath, headaches and migraines, head injuries, heart attacks, incessant vomiting, abdominal pain, serious impact from a fall and many other conditions.

Type of medical practitioners present

Urgent care centers are staffed with nurse practitioners and primary care physicians who can only perform basic lab tests and provide simple medications. Emergency rooms on the other hand provide the care of board certified emergency room physicians with full labs and complex work-ups for things like liver function and kidney function. The medical practitioners here are qualified to handle all the medical conditions reported to them. Just like a hospital ER, they can provide IV treatment when necessary and monitor you for up to 23 hours before discharge or hospitalization.

Number of hours waited

Urgent care facilities have longer hours than doctor’s offices but they typically aren’t open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week like an emergency room centers. Depending on the availability of the medical staff, they can be open until midday while some can run deep into the night. A good number of urgent centers are however closed at 5pm like doctor’s offices. Standalone emergency rooms on the other hand, are open for 24 hours a day 365 days a year including holidays and weekends. The staff members work in shifts here and at no time will you not get someone to attend to you. Whether it is very early in the morning or late into the night, they are always there waiting for you.

Equipment available

Most urgent care facilities are not well equipped with the facilities and equipment needed for complex medical procedures. This means that they just operate using the basic equipment and will not perform any complicated procedures like surgeries or even imaging or scanning.

Freestanding emergency rooms on the other hand are equipped just like hospitals and are capable of performing even the most complex of procedures right there on the spot. They have the facilities required for basic surgery, they have well equipped labs, they can scan patients using X-rays and CT scans, Ultrasound and some even have MRI units. This means that whatever form of care that you need, you will most likely get it in the emergency room.

So, which is which? Where should you report your medical emergency then next time you have one?

Well, think about the severity of your condition before settling on a medical facility. For less serious conditions, opt for an urgent care center. As for serious medical emergencies, opt for freestanding emergency room.

Freestanding emergency rooms offer more comprehensive medical care and are capable of handling a lot of the medical emergencies reported in the United States. Here at Bellaire Emergency Room in Texas, we appreciate the significance of bring medical services closer to people and this is exactly what we are doing to the locals of Bellaire. Head over to our emergency room and receive the quick, high quality care at a very rate.