ER vs. Urgent Care: How To Save Time and Money

It is common for us to instinctually rush to the emergency room (ER) when we get sick or injured, but depending on the injury or illness, there may be a better alternative. A visit to urgent care can save you a significant amount of time and money in comparison to the ER. Use these guidelines to help you decide whether you should visit the ER or urgent care.

If you are experiencing a severe allergic reaction, chest pain, profuse bleeding, or any other potentially life-threatening problems, you should go to the closest ER immediately.

Benefits of Urgent Care

If you are experiencing a non-life-threatening situation, like the flu or a severe scrape, urgent care is a convenient option. The ER staff is required to aid more serious injuries first so you may spend hours in the waiting room, regardless of any pain or discomfort you might be in. Urgent care, on the other hand, sees patients on a first-come, first-served basis.

The emergency room is required to treat patients whether they are insured or not, which can mean a lot of traffic. Although some urgent care centers may also experience high traffic, there isn’t a constant influx of emergency patients taking priority over your minor injury or illness. The urgent care staff can focus on treating less severe cases as they come in, saving you time. Urgent care centers are staffed with nurses and doctors who are capable of treating you and can provide x-rays or lab work, if needed.

Urgent care also costs significantly less than the emergency room. A typical visit to an in-network urgent care center is almost always a lower co-pay than if you visited the ER for the same sickness or injury. When you visit an urgent care clinic, make sure it is not an emergency room “in disguise,” as some urgent care clinics associated with hospitals bill their patients like an ER. Ask a staff member if the facility bills as urgent care or an ER before you are treated. You also want to make sure that the urgent care facility is in your insurance network and will cover your visit.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, urgent care is prepared to treat everyday illnesses and less severe injuries such as the following:

  • Rashes
  • Nausea
  • Urinary Tract Infection
  • Cold and flu
  • Coughing and sore throats
  • Mild Fever
  • Minor injuries and burns
  • Minor Fracture
  • Sprain
  • Headache
  • Allergies, sinusitis or bronchitis

The ER is specifically equipped to handle more serious illnesses and injuries such as:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
  • Continuous bleeding
  • Constant vomiting
  • Severe allergic reactions to food, animal or bug bites
  • Unconsciousness
  • Head injury
  • Deep wound

There are many other cases in which you would need to visit the ER. If you’re experiencing a life-threatening emergency, or are uncertain of the severity, please do not hesitate to call 911 or go to the closest emergency room.

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