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Know Where to Go — The Emergency Room or Urgent Care Center


One common topic of discussion these days is healthcare — whether it’s worrying about the ever rising cost of healthcare, how to find the best insurance, or where to seek out the best medical treatment, healthcare is always on our minds it seems. This is only going to increase as American continues to gray — indeed, it’s estimated by 2030, six out of every ten Baby Boomers are going to be managing some kind of chronic condition, that will require visits to the doctor, prescriptions, and managing health insurance. However, many people don’t know that there are alternatives to the hospital, even in an emergency. Urgent care and clinic care from walk in clinics are great options for people to turn to. It’s important to know what conditions people should go to the emergency room for and what an urgent care center can take care of — it keeps emergency rooms open and flowing better, and saves people a significant amount of money at the same time.
What’s the Difference Between an Urgent Care Center and a Walk In Clinic?
Urgent care is a step up from clinic care in terms of what services and capabilities it can offer patients. They’re able to treat illnesses or injuries that are graver than what a walk-in clinic might be able to handle, like minor broken bones, sprains or strains, mild bleeding or cuts (not heavy bleeding, but enough that stitches would be required), fever, flu, skin rashes, UTI’s, and vomiting, diarrhea or dehydration. Four out five urgent care centers can handle fractures as well. An urgent care clinic will also have access to X-ray technology, be able to administer IVs, and do laboratory tests. Urgent care is generally good if there’s a minor emergency after regular business hours or during the weekend, as urgent care centers have extended hours and are often open on the weekends.
Clinic care offers basic medical care and services. There are no appointments that you have to set up, but you can get basic care like vaccinations, pregnancy tests, annual physicals, and they’ll take care of common infections or minor burns and sprains.
Why Should I Use Urgent Care Instead of the Emergency Room?
In general, urgent care tends to be less expensive than emergency room care. Because emergency rooms are often overly full and busy, patients with more minor (but still urgent and irritating) conditions may be pushed farther and farther back on the wait list. With urgent care, there’s a good chance that you’ll be seen faster, spend less money, and most urgent care centers do work with the common types of medical insurance. They’re a great resource for conditions that aren’t life-threatening, but need to be taken care of before the next day or that are urgent enough to not wait until the next time the patient sees their doctor.
Around 85% of urgent care centers keep their doors open seven days a week (even on holidays) and many offer extended hours, after work or school. If you can’t get ahold of your primary doctor, urgent care is a quality alternative to take care of your medical needs.
How Do I Know I Need the Emergency Room Versus Urgent Care?
If you have a life-threatening injury or illness, you absolutely should go straight to the emergency room. Among other illnesses and injuries, those who are displaying symptoms of a stroke or heart attack, or have compound fractures, knife or gunshot wounds, heavy bleeding, poisoning, and pregnancy-related conditions should go immediately to the emergency room.
The key question to ask yourself is: is my injury or illness life-threatening? If yes, go to the emergency room. If no, but it’s still serious and needs fairly immediate care, go to urgent care.
Many people think they have only two options — going to their doctor or going to the emergency room. However, there are other alternatives, such as urgent care and clinic care that are often far less expensive and are far quicker to see and treat patients. You also don’t have to worry about juggling or scheduling appointments, as many work on a first-come, first-served basis.

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