Urgent Care Center vs. Emergency Room

Urgent care centers are different from emergency rooms in many ways. While they provide many of the same services, they do not have the same pricing schedules or wait times. Here is information you need to know about the similarities and differences.

Emergency Rooms and Urgent Care Differences

Here are the types of services urgent care center cover:

  • Flu or Cold
  • Immunizations (such as flu shots)
  • Fever, Headaches, and Chills
  • Sprains
  • After-Hours Care

Here are some of the services that require an emergency room:

  • Major Trauma or Accident
  • Loss of Consciousness
  • Heart Attack or Chest Pain
  • Uncontrollable Bleeding

While an ER could treat any of the urgent care issues, it is not recommended because emergency rooms are busier and more expensive. Also, it is important to note that urgent care centers may not be able to treat the illnesses listed for emergency rooms. That said, of the top diagnosis at both urgent care centers and emergency rooms, nearly 50% of them are the same.

The average urgent care visit costs patients $71-125 for basic care, with additional costs added for shots, x-rays, and labs. The average emergency room visit costs $1,318.

The average emergency room has a wait time of 2.4 hours, whereas urgent care centers are able to see walk-in patients within 15-45 minutes. However, that wait time does not express the time patients will spend waiting for services while in the doctor’s office. In most cases, an urgent care center helps patients through the system much faster, as its care is more limited and specific.

Patients in ERs can expect to wait hours in their rooms if a more traumatic case enters the ER. In urgent care centers, patients rarely experience this type of issue, as major traumas are directed to ERs.

Emergency Rooms and Urgent Care Similarities

Both emergency rooms and urgent care centers are staffed with compassionate health care providers. In most cases both facilities will have doctors and nurses available. Occasionally an urgent care center will have RNs or NPs in lieu of doctors. Before you go, you should know the difference between doctors and nurse practitioners.

In most cases, your insurance will cover either an urgent care center or an emergency room. Exceptions include unnecessary visits and out-of-network facilities. However, patients should be aware that their co-pay is based on the facility they visit. It is usually much cheaper to go to urgent care centers than ERs.

Many urgent care centers offer x-rays, just like emergency rooms. In some areas, urgent care centers have MRIs, CAT scans, and in-house laboratories just like hospitals. Both urgent care centers and ERs are able to give patients shots, medications, IVs, and even treatment plans.

Neither ERs nor urgent care centers are equipped to deal with non-emergency, chronic conditions. Patients with chronic needs such as depression or diabetes need to be seen by a primary care physician.

Being informed about the differences and similarities between these kinds of care is important. Whether you choose to receive care from an urgent care center or an emergency room, it is important to follow-up with additional treatments as necessary. Ready to find urgent care near you?

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What is Urgent Care Locations?

Urgent care is one of the fastest growing fields in healthcare today with an estimated 10,000 clinics in the United States. This includes traditional urgent care centers, pediatric urgent care centers, retail clinics, occupational medicine providers and primary care offices that offer extended and see walk-in patients. The problem is most of these clinics are owned and operated by individuals, small physician groups and other independent operators making them difficult to find and obtain trusted information about. Our job is to make that easier on the patients that need them. Through our free online service, healthcare consumers are able to quickly search, sort and find urgent care facilities from our directory of 11,063 of them. But we don’t stop there. We’ve painstakingly verified nearly all of the information presented on the site, are constantly adding new information and detail on each location and have given you – the consumer – the ability to rate and review each location based on your experience.

When Should I Go to the Urgent Care?

If you or a family member are sick, then you will need to quickly determine where to go for medical care. If you are considering urgent care treatment there are a few things you should consider before you go. It is also important to know when you should NOT go to an urgent care.

Urgent Care for Uninsured Patients

Uninsured patients have few options when it comes to medical care. Emergency rooms must accept all patients, but that isn’t always the best choice if your condition is mild to moderate as you may have to wait several hours before being seen. Urgent care centers will also see uninsured patients on a walk-in basis. However, if a patient is uninsured he or she must pay in full at the time of service.

Prices for medical care in urgent care locations vary, but the average price is $71-125 for a routine visit prior to any tests or medications. It is important to remember that urgent care centers do not offer payment plans, whereas emergency rooms do offer payment plans.

After Hours Care

While urgent care centers are generally open much longer than traditional physicians’ offices, they are not open 24/7 at most locations. Patients should check online or call for specific location hours. In general, urgent care centers are open from 7 AM until 9 PM every day of the week, but again, that may vary. People needing care between 9 PM and 7 AM will need to go to emergency rooms.

How to Choose a Location

Based on the services needed and the hour of service, patients can choose an urgent care center using an online search engine or service like Urgent Care Locations. For example, if a patient needs an x-ray for a possible broken bone, he or she should search for a center that has an x-ray machine. Also, not every urgent care location staffs physicians, dispenses medications on-site or is accredited by an official body such as the American Academy of Urgent Care Medicine (AAUCM). If these things are important for you, then you should be more selective prior to making the trip.

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