Urgent Care vs. Critical Care vs. Emergency Care

Amongst the options that exist for medical attention in the US is critical care, urgent care, and emergency care. All of these options offer great medical services, it is just a matter of you choosing the best of them. That is why we have decided to break down these three options in the simplest terms possible. This way, you can make an informed decision the next time you require seeing a medical expert.

What is Critical Care?

Critical care is a type of medical practice that deals with the long-term treatment of a patient. In their condition, the patient is usually facing a life-threatening medical condition. Thus, critical care is needed until he or she can get better. Critical care is usually administered in the ICU. This type of treatment can be quite costly. However, the good thing is that most insurers will cover patients who are in critical condition.

The ICU is usually attached to a hospital with specialists working there. After the patient leaves the ICU, they usually still require care, which is administered in the general ward of a hospital. It is only a doctor who can judge whether a patient needs to be in the ICU or not. Thus, you cannot just walk into the ICU and get admitted; you will most likely have to pass through the ER first.

What is Urgent Care?

Urgent care is the type of care where the doctor sees patients on a first come first serve basis. At an urgent care center, the wait times can be quite short, compared to visiting the ER. However, urgent care does not deal with life and death situations. If you feel that your case is an emergency which may require specialized attention, you need to go to the ER. If you do visit an urgent care center, they will most likely reroute you to the ER anyway.

Besides short wait times, another advantage of urgent care is that costs are lower. Compared to visiting the ER, cases that can be treated in the urgent care cost less. Most insurers will not accept to pay if they determine that the patient could have help elsewhere besides the ER. If you want to get treat within 30 minutes and get back home to sleep, always insist on visiting the urgent care center instead of the ER.

What is the ER?

The ER such as Frontline ER is a place where you go to be treated for life-threatening situations. If you feel that your condition might lead to loss of life or limb, you are advised to call 911 or drive yourself there.

Once at the ER, you will be assessed and attended to on priority basis. However, if it is determined that your case is not life-threatening, you may have to wait for up to three hours before a doctor can attend to you. Thus, never go to the ER unless you have to. Despite this fact, the ER is a great option for people who have no other option for getting care. Legally, any sick person who goes to the ER must receive the treatment they deserve.

In some rare circumstances, the insurer will refuse to pay for your care in the ER. This is because they may claim your case was not life-threatening. If this happens, you still have the option to file an appeal. Studies show that over half of all appeals succeed.

How the ER and Critical Care are Related

Once you get to the ER, you will be stabilized and  moved to the ICU. This is where you will get the critical care you need. However, things are changing quite a lot. Most ER doctors are also offering critical care to their patients.

This is because the ER now sees a high volume of patients, with some having to stay in the ER for days. This forces doctors working there to offer a form of critical care. One difference between an ER and the ICU is the patient-doctor ratio. AT the ICU, there are usually fewer patients per doctor than in the ER. Besides that, the foot traffic is kept to a minimal.

At urgent care centers, patients are not generally admitted. If it gets to a point where your condition is serious enough to require an overnight stay in the hospital, they will most likely refer you to the ER.


When making your choice, take time to consider which facility to visit. However, you should know that you might not visit the ICU unless the doctor decides you need special care. On matters of insurance, always check that the facility you visit accepts your insurer. This can be done with ease by checking the local facilities in your area and calling them. With this information at hand, you will know where to visit in case a medical situation ever arises.


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