When to Go to Urgent Care vs. ER

It can be confusing to choose the facility to rush to for care during a sudden and scary medical situation. You may not know whether you should call 911, head straight to the local hospital’s ER (emergency room), or opt for the nearby urgent care facility.

Both the ER and urgent care clinic have the personnel and facilities to fix any medical issue that might come up when your usual physician is out of reach. But each alternative has its specific treatments to which it’s best suited. Knowing the difference between the two and the health condition they’re best suited to can eliminate the confusion and ensure an informed choice.

This detailed guide highlights the difference between the two emergency treatment options and the specific medical emergency conditions and symptoms that determine your choice. You’ll also learn why you should opt for a reliable urgent care center like Reliant for mild medical emergencies.

Difference between Urgent Care and ER

Emergency room (ER) overuse has been one of the hottest discussion topics among healthcare providers for decades. Most patients never have second thoughts about heading straight to ER, yet almost half of the conditions are treatable outside the emergency department. This usually results from a lack of awareness.

So what’s the difference between the two?patient in urgent care

Urgent care clinics are adequately prepared to handle numerous pressing health situations that aren’t life-threatening. Contrary to the common misconception that it’s only the ER that offers the best treatment and medication, these facilities can adequately address your problem in good time, with convenience, and at a lower cost.

That said, an urgent clinic cannot replace your local hospital’s emergency department. These facilities might lack the advanced equipment that enables the ER to offer more comprehensive treatment. You might find x-rays in most urgent care facilities, but magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed radiography (CR) machines may not be available.

On the other hand, the emergency room handles actual emergency conditions. Here, you’ll find physicians in the team, while several states allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to be autonomous clinic staff. The ER is the immediate-need alternative, and patients go here to address severe or benign medical conditions. Of course, it’s the most expensive healthcare option among the two.

An emergency room bill will cost you at least $1,000, even if you’ll get aspirin. On the other hand, consulting your nearest urgent care facility for the same treatment would cost between $200 and $300. From the example, it’s clear how important it is to understand the difference and the conditions that the two treatment options are best suited for.

When Should You Go to an Urgent Care Center?

Urgent care providers like Reliant are the best healthcare option for various non-emergency conditions. These centers cater for incidences beyond regular business hours. They can address multiple health issues that can be treated instantly but aren’t true emergencies.

Here are the primary symptoms that urgent care providers evaluate and treat:

  • Minor cuts, including those which require stitches
  • Pain in the ears or eyes
  • Strains and sprains
  • Nausea
  • Flu and cold
  • Simple bone breaks
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Slight burns
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Mild asthma attacks

Situations That Require Emergency Room Treatment

A straight trip to the emergency department is imperative if you or a person you know experiences a health emergency. These are conditions that may require immediate surgery or other advanced treatment alternatives. Dial 911 or head straight to the nearest hospital’s ER for evaluation and treatment of the following conditions:

  • Badly broken and displaced bones
  • Possible bone breakage in the pelvis, face, ribs, or skill
  • A change in the patient’s mental state
  • Drug overdoses
  • Sudden numbness or dizziness
  • Unconsciousness
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Seizures
  • Head injuries
  • Severe trauma
  • Extreme chest pain
  • Multiple injuries
  • Severe burns or cuts
  • Pain the left arm or left jaw
  • Severe bleeding that’s unstoppable with pressure after approximately five minutes

Any of the above symptoms require swift action where necessary. Contact an ambulance if the incidence involves severe breathing problems or anaphylactic shock. This crew can handle all treatments offered by urgent care centers.

Why Should You Consider Urgent Care Centers?

You may be wondering, “if the emergency department can handle the emergency health situation with the best resources and physicians, why should I consider an urgent care center?” Here are the unique benefits of these treatment facilities:

  • Quick attendance – Patients in urgent care centers wait for 30 minutes or lower to receive medical attention. When you schedule your visit on Reliant Urgent Care’s website, you’ll be notified of the expected waiting time upon arrival.
  • Fast treatment – The emergency department is more equipped to deal with health distress, but you’ll take longer waiting and getting treatment than in an urgent care facility.
  • Affordable – A simple ambulance ride to the emergency department might cost you $1,200 and above. No matter the nature of your treatment, the cost will be way lower with your urgent care facility.
  • Walk-ins – Urgent care facilities allow for walk-ins. You may not need to book an appointment early, but doing this could help you quickly check-in and leave the facility.
  • Convenience – Urgent care centers are conveniently located around you. Reliant facilities, for instance, are located in Downtown LA, Lax Airport area, Montebello, Huntington Park, and Telemed clinic.
  • Insurance benefit – Almost every urgent care facility accepts insurance. Reliant, for instance, has a vast network of popular work comp and urgent care insurance providers.

The Bottom Line

The most significant determinant of your choice between an urgent care center or the emergency department is the severity of the health emergency. If it’s a significant injury or critical illness condition, the best thing to do would be to head straight to the local hospital’s ER. But if the situation isn’t life-threatening, then it would be best to leverage the cost-effectiveness and convenience offered by Reliant urgent care.

We’re here to offer the best assistance possible for your condition. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions or schedule an appointment online for even shorter waiting periods and fast treatment.

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Medical Director

As Medical Director of of Reliant Immediate Care Medical Group, Dr. Max Lebow leads a team of highly trained and committed doctors, nurses, psychologists, physical therapists, exercise physiologists, and medical assistants, all dedicated to bringing the highest level of medical care to the patients and families who use the many services at our facility.  “Our staff is here to go the extra mile for you,” says Lebow.  “We seek to provide care in a family oriented environment; our family is yours.”

Dr. Lebow graduated from West Virginia University School of Medicine, and completed his residency in Emergency Medicine at Charity Hospital of New Orleans.  He received his Masters of Public Health from Medical College of Wisconsin, and his Masters of Business Administration from Taft University.  He is Board Certified by the American College of Emergency Medicine and American College of Preventive Medicine (Occupational Medicine). Dr. Lebow has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Urgent Care Associate of America.

Chief Executive Officer

Gene has over 20 years of executive leadership experience guiding healthcare organizations to successfully meet the evolving financial and regulatory environment through alignment of physician and patient goals, and by using innovative IT solutions. As CEO of Reliant Medical Center, one of the busiest and largest standalone urgent care and occupational medicine centers in the country. Under Gene’s direction, Reliant grew at a rate of 20% per year to more than 7,000 visits per month.

In addition to his leadership role at Reliant, Mr. Howell has worked as a technical and work flow advisor and advisory board member for one of the country’s leading EMR companies. He began his career within advertising and marketing and has worked for Fortune 50 companies specializing in top national accounts. After 15 years, Mr. Howell transitioned into the medical field. Gene brings an exceptional working knowledge of EMR’s and how they affect all aspects of a practice.  He is known for thinking outside the box to solve the many challenges facing practices today.