What’s the difference between the Emergency Room and Urgent Care centers, and when should you use them? Knowing can make a difference in convenience and cost of care.
People often use emergency rooms when they don’t actually have an emergency. While you will be treated eventually, it can take a very long time if you don’t actually have an emergency. Emergency rooms are also very expensive. While the answer of whether or not you should rush to the ER is not always clear, knowing the difference between emergency care and urgent care could save a life, time, and money.
Primary Care Providers
Most often, the best place to get treated is with your primary care provider. You should make appointments at your doctor’s office for common illnesses such as cold, flu, or migraines; minor injuries such as sprains, back pain, and burns; regular physicals, prescription refills, and vaccinations; and all other chronic problems your provider is helping you manage.
Urgent Care Clinics
When your doctor is not available, you can go to an urgent care clinic to be assessed. Urgent care clinics can take care of non-threatening medical problems that could become worse if you wait. In many cases, they are like a walk-in health care provider’s office; the biggest difference being that you can walk in without an appointment. Many urgent-care centers charge about the same as a doctor’s office, but can be half the cost of a hospital emergency department. If you need more care than they can provide, they’ll get you to an emergency department quickly. Baptist Health has urgent care centers across the state, making it even easier to get the treatment you need, faster and cheaper than an emergency room.
Serious, life-threatening injuries or conditions are medical emergencies and should be treated in a hospital emergency department. Some warning signs of a medical emergency include uncontrolled bleeding, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and fever greater than 103 degrees Fahrenheit. If one of these is occurring, you should go to the emergency room or call 911.
When you’re not at your best, every situation may feel like an emergency. However, knowing the differences between care providers and assessing what level of care you need for your situation can save you time and money in the long run.