What Is The Difference Between Urgent Care And Emergency Rooms?

What is the difference between urgent care centers and emergency rooms? When should you opt for one over the other? Is the quality and level of care provided in the two similar?

Although there has been a tremendous increase in the number of Urgent Care and Emergency Room visits in America, there still exists an information gap on the differences between the two. This lack of information has led to millions ending up in emergency rooms and being referred to urgent care centers.

 The precious minutes lost during the referral process can mean the difference between life and death. This is why in this blog, we take a look at the differences between the two and help you make a decision on the facility that best suits your medical condition. Here are the differences between emergency rooms and urgent care centers;

Differences between Urgent Care and Emergency Room

Urgent Care Centers  

Urgent care centers are high level treatment centers meant to address medical conditions which are non-life-threatening but need urgent care. Urgent care centers are normally situated close to neighborhoods for easy accessibility by patients when an emergency arises.

Urgent care centers are normally open after normal business hours but don’t necessarily operate for 24 hours. They operate in the evenings, weekends and even during national holidays. On a good number of days, such centers are open until late night after which they remain closed until the next morning.

Urgent care centers are run by a physician with the help of a registered nurse. The facilities are normally well-equipped and you can expect to get basic medical help here. They are ideal for treating serious but non-life-threatening conditions.

Conditions such as severe headaches, minor cuts, bruises, stomachaches, toothaches, flu, fever, skin infections, small injuries and many other serious but non-life-threatening conditions. You therefore expect onsite diagnosis, lab tests, prescription of medication and other basic medical procedures.

In the event that a patient with a serious life-threatening condition visits an urgent care center, the physicians do everything within their power to control the symptoms while contacting a higher level care facility.

Despite their proximity to neighborhoods, urgent care centers receive underwhelming numbers compared to emergency rooms. This is largely attributed to the lack of sufficient information on what urgent care centers are meant for. This is why the average waiting time in emergency rooms is almost double that of urgent care centers.

The cost of services offered in urgent care centers is relatively lower than those offered in emergency rooms and it is easy to see why. The services offered in emergency rooms are high level and require sophisticated equipment and professionals.

Medical Emergency Rooms

Emergency rooms are meant to treat limb-threatening and life-threatening conditions. Conditions which involve severe wounds, amputations, concussions, trauma and other life-threatening symptoms should be reported to emergency rooms.

Emergency rooms are well-staffed and equipped to handle serious life-threatening conditions which urgent care centers can’t address. Run by medical physicians with the help of registered nurses and other medical practitioners, emergency rooms are equipped and staffed to operate 24 hours a day all year round. Emergency rooms are the ideal destination for people in life-threatening emergency situations.

Accident victims, people with very deep cuts, people suffering from potential heart attacks, asthmatics, people with severe migraines, poisoning victims, stroke victims, venomous snake bite victims and other people suffering from serious life-threatening conditions are some of the most common visitors to emergency rooms.

The fact that emergency rooms are meant for life threatening conditions does not mean that they don’t receive cases of non-serious conditions. If anything, more than 40% of all visits to emergency rooms are non-serious. For some reason, people tend to prefer emergency rooms over urgent care and even the smallest of medical conditions are reported to emergency rooms.

Because of the wider array of conditions that medical emergency rooms can handle, there receive relatively higher numbers than urgent care centers. The average waiting time in an emergency room is about 25 minutes which is almost double that of the urgent care centers.

The cost of services in emergency rooms is relatively higher than that of urgent care. This is down to the level of care provided in emergency room and the complexity of conditions handled in emergency rooms.

So, unless your condition is life-threatening, priority should be given to an urgent care center. You will receive medical care in a shorter time and you will end up paying relatively less money. If you believe your life is in jeopardy though, dial 911 or head to the nearest emergency room for comprehensive treatment.

Here at Frontline Emergency Room in Richmond, TX, we offer high quality no wait emergency care services provided by board certified physicians and registered nurses. Day or night, we are always available to serve you and offer the care you need.

If you are in Richmond or Dallas and are looking for an emergency room, look no further than our way. For more information on our services, give us a call today and we will gladly be of service.


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