Urgent Care vs. E.R.

A lot of people have trouble deciding where they should go when it comes to treating a medical issue. Do you go to the emergency room for something like a broken bone or should you visit an urgent care center instead? Where’s the best possible place to go when someone has a high fever? There are certainly a lot of choices available to you, so it’s understandable if you find yourself unsure. In order to answer these questions, we should first ask: what’s the difference between the two?


It’s important to know the difference between the two options, so that you can receive the best care for yourself or someone you love. An urgent care center is designed to give patients treatment for less serious injuries if their primary care provider is unavailable. Urgent care centers normally have extended hours, although they aren’t necessarily equipped to handle any major medical traumas or conditions. It’s also important to note that they normally see patients on a first-come, first-serve basis, so you’ll most likely have shorter waiting times than if you were to go to the ER, where the most seriously ill or injured are seen before anyone else.

Ryan Hummel, the Director of Ambulatory Markets at Abington Health in Abington, Pennsylvania says, “Many studies indicate a large chunk of patients who go to the ER could have been seen, diagnosed, and treated at an urgent care center, and at a much lower cost.”

Many healthcare plans don’t have urgent care centers in their networks and the normal co-pay is about the same as that of a specialty co-pay.

The emergency room, on the other hand, is designed to treat those conditions that could potentially be life-threatening, and they’re open 24 hours a day. As we said, those with serious problems are treated first and foremost, so those people with less urgent needs often wait longer. And even though many healthcare plans cover a portion of an ER visit, you might have a copayment, out-of-network charge, or physician charge—which all cost a lot more than urgent care centers.

When Should You Visit Each?

It’s best to visit an urgent care center when you have a condition that needs treating quickly, but isn’t an emergency. Symptoms treated in an urgent care center include: fever without a rash, a common sprain, painful urination, diarrhea, severe sore throat, vomiting, urinary tract infections, mild asthma, or broken bones of the wrist, hand, ankle, or foot

Also, these places treat those who experience an onset of symptoms gradually, or if they know the problem already but can’t see their primary doctor.

Those emergencies that necessitate a trip to the emergency room include: persistent chest pain or shortness of breath, symptoms of heart attack or stroke, loss of balance, fainting, difficulty speaking, weakness or paralysis, severe heart palpitations, severe headache, as well as sudden testicular pain and swelling. Emergency rooms also treat head and eye injuries, deep cuts that need stitches, vision loss, intestinal bleeding, vaginal bleeding with pregnancy, infants with a fever, fever with rash, serious burns, repeated vomiting, seizures, or severe pain.

And while you should always visit the ER if you’re uncertain where to go, it’s also important to know when you should call 911. In some scenarios, you should call for an ambulance if you have trouble breathing, a life or limb threatening injury, or if you’re experiencing any symptoms of heart attack or stroke. By calling for help, you’ll be able to start getting life-saving treatment in the ambulance earlier than if you were to drive yourself to the hospital.