Urgent Care Vs ER

urgent care vs emergency room

Urgent Care Vs ER: Who Should You Turn to?

When you need medical care at night or on weekends, where do you go for help? The emergency room or an urgent care facility? The simple answer is:

  • If you’re severely hurt, having chest pain, or difficulty breathing, go to an E.R.
  • If your symptoms are not life-threatening, urgent care is probably the best choice.

Urgent Care Vs ER

There are some basic differences between your experience in ER and at an Urgent Care.

ER – The Emergency Room

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has put some interesting numbers together about ER visits. Based on the study:

The top reasons for most ER visits include:

  • Stomach and abdominal pain and cramping (8.8%)
  • Chest pain and related symptoms (5.3%)
  • Fever (4.4%)
  • Cough (3.4%)
  • Headache (2.8%)

Injuries are another big reason to go to the ER.

Most injuries are due to falls (25% of injuries) and vehicle crashes (9.6%).

There are more specialists and treatment options in the ER.

This is important if the condition of the patient is serious.

You could have a long wait in the ER.

Those who are most seriously injured or sick are seen first; the rest have to wait. The median wait time spent in the ER is around 180 minutes.

Visiting the ER can be expensive.

Generally, going to the ER costs a lot more than seeking help at an urgent care facility. That might be a good reason to not go to the ER when your condition is more appropriate for urgent care.

Urgent Care

Research shows that about one out of four ER visits could have been handled at in urgent care

Non-life-threatening symptoms are best left to urgent care.

These might include things that are fairly minor but bothersome or uncomfortable enough to seek relief right away.

  • Minor allergy symptoms
  • Minor asthma
  • Rash
  • High fever
  • Intense headache
  • Cough or sore throat
  • Cold or flu
  • Sprains
  • Stitches
  • Minor headache

Waits are much shorter.

The vast majority of patients who go to urgent care for help are in and out in less than half an hour.

Yes, you can visit urgent care without health insurance.

Urgent care is usually less expensive than an ER visit, so if you don’t have insurance and you need help at urgent care, do it. A basic visit may cost about $100. However, without insurance, prescription medications must be paid out of pocket at the pharmacy.

The takeaway here are to discern how serious your condition is. Intense symptoms or injury with bleeding? Go to the ER. For non-life-threatening situations, go to urgent care.

If you’re not sure which to go to, try to reach your doctor. You might be able to call a 24-hour nurse line, usually provided by health care networks.

About Barbara Howington

In a 40-year career that began as editor for a college public affairs department, Barbara has been an instructional media script writer, public relations director, marketing manager, account manager, and co-owner of a graphic design, marketing and public relations firm. For the past several years, she has funneled her knowledge and insight into copywriting, her favorite part of every professional position she’s held.