Urgent Care or Emergency Room: What’s the Difference?


You’re making dinner and cutting vegetables for a soup medley when all of the sudden….OOPS you accidentally slice your thumb. It’s bleeding bad and the cut is deep, but the pain in bearable. What do you do? Do you go to your local emergency room (ER)? Or do you drive to the nearest Urgent Care Facility?




These types of scenarios are common and making an informed decision on where to seek medical care is crucial to your financial well-being. Making the wrong choice could cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. In fact, medical bills were the biggest cause of U.S. bankruptcies, according to a CNBC report. It estimated that 2 million people were adversely affected.


So what do you do?


When to Go to the Urgent Care


Urgent care centers are perfect for most non-emergency situations. They’re also ideal if something happens outside of normal business hours of 9 to 5. For example, most Urgent Care clinics are open until 8:00 p.m. on weekdays and from 9:00 am to 4:00 or 5:00 on weekends, when most doctors’ offices are typically closed. There are even 24 hour Urgent Care facilities.


You should visit an urgent care center if you experience any of the following:

  • Minor broken bones (e.g. toes or fingers)

  • Back pain

  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea

  • Minor headaches

  • Blood work

  • Bumps, cuts and scrapes

  • Fever (ER may be more advised for infants and toddlers though)

  • Ear Infections

  • Cough or sore throat

  • Lab services

  • Animal bites

  • Stitches (for non-traumatic cuts)

  • Sprains and strains

  • Mild asthma

  • Urinary tract infections

  • Minor allergic reactions

  • Rashes and minor burns

  • Eye irritation, swelling or pain

  • Cold or flu symptoms

Here are a few reasons to visit an Urgent Care in lieu of an Emergency Room

  1. Wait time is less to see a provider. Most Urgent Care websites have a time clock that tells you your expected wait.

  2. Quicker release of patients which experience times in an out of less than an hour.

  3. More affordable. The average urgent care visit is anywhere from $71 to $125.

There is no substitute for life-threatening injuries, illnesses or mental conditions or serious medical conditions then the Emergency Room though.


When to Go to the Emergency Room

  • Chest pain or difficulty breathing

  • Stroke

  • Head trauma

  • Severe bleeding

  • Loss of vision

  • Severe abdominal pain

  • Poisoning or suspected poisoning

  • Suicidal or homicidal feelings

  • Seizures

The difference between urgent care and emergency rooms is the severity of the health problem. If the condition is life-threatening, go to an emergency room or call 911. Be prepared should a situation arise.


To find a local Urgent Care Near You – Click HERE

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