Many people believe that the terms urgent care and ER (Emergency Room) mean the same thing. While it is true that these terms have many things in common, the fact is that they are different. The main difference between urgent care departments and emergency rooms (ERs) is the level of health care and level of treatment you can get in each of these facilities. For example, in case a patient is dealing with life-threatening injuries or he or she has an extremely severe illness, the ET is definitely the best solution for them because this is where they can get immediate care that can possibly save their life.
In case the symptoms must be addressed and treated right away, but they are not life-threatening like severe flu symptoms, cold symptoms, minor to moderate burns or cuts and broken bones, then an urgent care department of a hospital or an urgent care clinic is usually the most reasonable treatment solution.
Of course, the list of differences between urgent care and ER doesn’t end here. For example, the vast majority of clinics and other healthcare facilities that provide urgent care services offer extended hours and they are operating seven days a week. The doctors and healthcare professionals that are part of these urgent care facilities have the knowledge, equipment and experience to respond quickly to a wide range of injuries and illnesses (non-life threatening) like sore throat, mild asthma, fever, painful urination, ear pain, insect bites, animal bites, minor burns, vomiting, rashes, dehydration, nosebleeds, simple sprains and fractures, infections, and lacerations.
On the other hand, emergency rooms are the perfect solution in cases where patients are facing life-threatening symptoms and may need special treatment like immediate surgery. ERs are open 24/7 and even during holidays due to the nature of medical cases treated there. The facilities with ERs provide access to a wide range of specialists and experts. Some of the medical issues that may need ER attention are head injuries, confusion, spinal injuries, abdominal pain, severe chest pain, uncontrollable bleeding, sudden vision change, coughing blood, severe burns, drug overdoses, seizures, severe diarrhea and/or vomiting etc.
Another thing that is different between urgent care and ER is the waiting time. Obviously, ERs provide medical assistance right away and patients usually don’t have to wait for more than a few minutes to get help. Nearly 90% of urgent care facilities treat patients in less than an hour. Keep in mind that ERs are treating patients only with demanding and critical conditions quickly.
Finally, we should not forget to highlight the fact that ER visits are quite more expensive compared to urgent care facilities. Namely, according to some statistics, ERs are 7 times more expensive than urgent care units.
So, these are the most important differences between urgent care and ER. Each of them has advantages and disadvantages, but there are many situations where patients simply must choose one of these two options.