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Three Key Differences Between an Emergency Room and Urgent Care

Treats injury and illness

You’ve probably passed urgent care centers many times. You might have wondered about how you’d choose between a visit to the emergency room vs. urgent care. Where could you get effective treatment and affordable care? If you’ve ever wondered about the emergency room vs. urgent care, read on to learn more about their differences.

Emergency Room vs. Urgent Care: Level of Care

Something like a 24 hour walk in clinic is there to provide care for people who need to be treated quickly, but not for a life-threatening situation. This means the urgent care center is where you should be heading if you’ve broken a bone, sprained something, have a cold or the flu, think you might have a UTI or ear infection or have to get bug bites treated.

Reasons to go to the emergency room include head injuries, especially with confusion, coughing up blood, pain in the chest with shortness of breath, changes in vision, injuries to the spine, uncontrollable bleeding, seizures, or any other possibly life-threatening situation.

Just don’t confuse level of care with quality of care. Urgent care centers provide great care. They just care for different needs than an emergency room is equipped for. A recent study by Milliman found that between 44% and 65% of emergency room visits could easily have been treated by an urgent care center.

Emergency Room vs. Urgent Care: Costs

An emergency room visit si going to be far more expensive than going into a walk in clinic. In fact, urgent care centers average seven times less expensive than emergency rooms. The average case that is treatable by urgent care costs $2,039 in the emergency room and only $226 in a clinic.

Emergency Room vs. Urgent Care: Wait Times

Emergency rooms prioritize cases based on urgency. Those with severe problems or life-threatening illnesses go first, so a visit to the emergency room for an issue that is not actually an emergency means you’ll sit at the very back of the line. Only 12% of ER patients are seen within an hour, while nearly 89% of urgent care patients are. By 2014 nearly all the urgent care centers in America were open seven days a week, so there’s almost always an option to visit urgent care instead of the emergency room.

America’s emergency rooms are too full. There are now 110 million visits annually, and visits have increased by 22% over the last ten years. Fortunately, the urgent care market is growing every year, and options are available to get effective and affordable treatment for a wide variety of non-life threatening conditions. Be prepared for a medical need, and find out about urgent care centers near you today.

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