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Emergency Room vs. Urgent Care

emergency room vs. urgent care

Access to medical assistance is crucial in times of emergency situations. It is important, however to understand the important differences between an urgent care center and a hospital emergency room — especially if you’re concerned about medical costs. Families, in particular, should keep these differences in mind if an emergency or urgent need comes up.

Choosing an emergency room or urgent care center

Emergency rooms are required by federal law to treat patients regardless of their ability to pay. This fact makes emergency rooms very attractive to those without health insurance or the ability to pay out-of-pocket expenses. Unfortunately, it places added strain on the resources and effectiveness needed to treat critically injured or ill patients. A National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey estimates that one-third to one-half of all ER visits are for non-urgent care.

In addition to cost, convenience is another key factor people often consider when deciding between emergency rooms and urgent care centers. People want medical treatment 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and emergency rooms accommodate that demand.

These key factors are two of the many reasons Americans spent over $3 trillion on healthcare in 2014. In fact, medical debt is the number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States. Most of these debt problems could be easily avoided if people understood when to visit a hospital emergency room and when to go to an urgent care center instead.

When to visit an urgent care center

Visit an urgent care center if you have a non-emergency condition like:

  • Eye irritation
  • Fever without rash
  • Migraine
  • Cold/cough
  • Mild asthma attacks
  • Vomiting
  • Rash
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Minor cuts and scrapes
  • Minor cuts that may require stitches
  • Sprain/strain injuries
  • Minor broken bones (toe, foot, finger)

Visiting an urgent care center for these conditions will likely save you both time and money.

When to visit a hospital emergency room

Visit a hospital emergency room if you have an extreme medical emergency like:

  • Eye injuries
  • Head injuries
  • Loss of balance/fainting
  • Newborn baby with fever
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Deep cuts that require stitches
  • Pregnancy-related problems
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Large open wound
  • Compound fracture (bone protrudes through skin)

A hospital emergency room will be far better equipped to handle these kinds of emergency situations.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you need emergency or urgent care to ensure you get the right kind of help you need. For more information about the urgent care and other services offered at Pomona Valley Health Centers, call (909) 536-1493 today.