The Difference Between Walk in Clinics, Urgent Care and the Emergency Room

The Difference Between Walk in Clinics, Urgent Care and the Emergency Room

Given that we are unlikely to be in perfect condition health wise all the time, sooner or later we are all going to need to seek medical attention because of one reason or the other. If you have ever tried to book an appointment with a primary care doctor, you know that it is practically impossible to get an immediate appointment, especially in major cities. In fact, as is revealed in discussions over at, there are instances where folks have had to wait for weeks let alone days just so one can get an appointment with a primary care doctor. Given that sometimes you find yourself in situations where you may need immediate medical attention, the waiting times one has to endure in order to get an appointment with a primary care doctor means that one has to look for alternatives. Thankfully, with walk in clinics, urgent care clinics and emergency rooms, there are options where one can choose to go if they require immediate medical attention. The question now becomes, when should one go to each of these facilities? Also, what is the difference between them, if any? Well, this article is what you need if you are looking to have these questions answered as it will look to highlight the differences that exist between these three facilities.

The first angle we are going to look at, the one which highlights the major difference between these three, is the angle on the severity of the medical condition one is having. As is covered over at, emergency rooms are for those situations that are life-threatening or limb-threatening. In such circumstances only a visit to an emergency room, and not urgent care or walk in clinics, would do. There are a number of instances that are to be attended to at an emergency room such as compound fractures with bone protruding through the skin, deep cuts or gunshot wounds, fever in newborns who are less than 3 months old, cases of 2nd and 3rd degree burns, cases of poisoning, symptoms of heart attack such as chest pain, difficulty breathing among others as well as symptoms of a stroke such as slurred speech, altered mental state, drooping face among others. Urgent care on the other hand is meant only for those medical conditions that are urgent but aren’t life-threatening such as cuts that aren’t that deep and don’t have too much bleeding and only need stiches, mild to moderate asthma attacks, minor broken bones, sore throat, sprains and strains among others. Walk in clinics are also meant for only such conditions, although they only deal with the less urgent ones as they lack imaging facilities such as X-rays.

The next difference that is evident between these three has to do with the staff. When it comes to walk in clinics, given that it only deals with urgent situations that are not that serious, you are likely to find only nurse practitioners or physician assistants working there. These two are still qualified enough to diagnose and prescribe medications for non-emergency medical conditions such as urinary tract infections. On the other hand, in urgent care clinics and emergency rooms, you are will find both physician assistants and nurse practitioners as well as doctors, MDs. Emergency rooms will also have more specialized MDs as compared to urgent care clinics due to the fact they have to handle much more complex health conditions. It should also be noted as part of the differences between these three, as is covered in detail over at, that while emergency rooms, given they are usually extensions of hospitals, are usually opened for 7 days a week and 24 hours per day, walk in clinics and urgent care clinics may be open all week long but not necessarily for 24 hours per day. As such you should be aware of their operating hours.

The other point of difference as far as walk in clinics, urgent care and emergency rooms are concerned has to do with costs. As is discussed in detail by the subject matter experts over at, walk in clinics and urgent care are usually cheaper for patients as compared to emergency rooms. This is mainly due to the fact that emergency room visits usually involve more complex diagnostic and treatment procedures, making use of sophisticated equipment that drive the prices up. As an example, then average price for treating an allergic reaction in an urgent care or walk in clinic is about $ 97 while the price jumps to up to $ 345 in an emergency room. As far as pricing is concerned, emergency rooms are usually the most expensive, followed by urgent care then finally walk in clinics which are the cheapest. It is therefore important to save visits to an emergency room for medical emergencies when you absolutely have to go. This will not only ensure that only those who are experiencing life-threatening conditions get attended to, but also that you save money.

The above are some of the differences between walk in clinics, urgent care and emergency rooms. It should be noted that this is a very wide topic and there is more to be uncovered on the same by visiting the ever reliable


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