How to Choose Between Emergency Rooms and Urgent Care Centers


The debate about an emergency room visit and that of an urgent care clinic has been going on for some years now. Of concern is the nature of services provided between these two types of facilities that provide urgent healthcare services. Due to lack of information, few people are able to tell the difference between the two facilities when needing urgent medical services as well as when to choose one over the other. Despite the many arguments fronted by both proponents of both sides of the divide, there are certain parameters that have been agreed upon regarding when to visit an emergency room as opposed to urgent care clinics. When experiencing non-life threatening urgent medical needs such as sore throats, allergic reactions, fever and flu, an urgent care clinic can deliver quality care services in the most convenient way and at minimal cost. On the other hand, a visit to the emergency room happens when one is experiencing life-threatening medical conditions such as stroke, severe burns, electric shock and heart attacks. The debate therefore revolves around what would be described as emergency vs non-emergency medical conditions.


The Emergency Room
From a general point of view, the debate around emergency room visits and urgent care centers should not be about emergency vs non-emergency medical issues. This is because; both the ER and the urgent care clinics mostly deal with issues that require immediate care. Whether it is an emergency vs non-emergency issue, emergency rooms have a total of five levels of care. The first level deals with those medical problems that are not complicated and can be attended to without requiring any advanced medical procedures. Some conditions in this category can be a typical earache, fever and flu treatment. The second level includes medical issues that require some form of procedure to be conducted such as cuts that require stitching. At the top level which is five are complex medical conditions that are life threatening. This means that at this level, the issue is not about emergency vs non-emergency conditions but every medical issue here is treated as an emergency. The law requires that all patients be attended to in emergency rooms irrespective of their ability to pay for care services and regardless of whether they need emergency vs non-emergency care.

Urgent Care Clinics
The past decade has seen a steady rise in the number of urgent care centers in operation. These clinics have over time proved to be the perfect alternative for patients requiring urgent care services for conditions that are non-life threatening. There are various reasons why more people continue to seek medical assistance from urgent care services regardless of whether the services sought are emergency vs non-emergency care services. Just as the name suggests, urgent care clinics allow you to access medical care in the most convenient way since most of them are strategically located not far from the neighborhoods. Today, you can hardly walk two blocks without coming across an urgent care clinic. The clinic’s location will have all the factors that allow ease of access. You can easily find some parking space, walk into the clinic, get medical assistance and walk out a few minutes later. Since you don’t have to book for an appointment when seeking medical services from urgent care clinics, service delivery is more prompt and efficient. It is estimated that an average stay at an urgent care facility is 15 minutes but this would definitely depend on the type of medical services that you require. There are some urgent care clinics today offering services almost similar to those of a hospital emergency room. This means that it is the medical problem that determines the stay at an urgent care center.

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Alice Jennings

You can call us anytime. (203) 285-8692 My name is Alice Jennings. I am a working mother of two young boys, Jim and Joey. My husband travels a lot for work and I handle most of the household "stuff". I created this site to share my ideas for family dinners. At first that's all that it was, but over time I have had requests and questions about other family issues and products. This is very much a work in progress. I plan to let this site grow and continue to help all my readers and contributors.

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