When to Visit Emergency Room Vs. Urgent Care?

Published on August 3, 2019


When you find yourself sick or in pain on a trip, it’s hard to decide the best place to go to get taken care of. Since you’re traveling, you probably don’t have a primary care doctor you can see. So that leaves the emergency room or an urgent care facility. The emergency room is what most people gravitate towards, but there are times where urgent care would be a better decision for both monetary reasons and time reasons. Filling up the emergency room with small cases makes it harder for hospital personnel to treat the life threatening and urgent matters. You should take a moment to plan where you will go in case of an emergency. See below for the differences in emergency rooms and urgent care facilities.

When You Should Visit the Emergency Room?

You should visit the emergency room for life threatening or limb threatening emergencies. If you have a deep cut that requires stitches, a broken bone that needs to be reset, have fainted or won’t stop throwing up, go to the emergency room. The more life threatening your case, the quicker you will be seen in an emergency room. There will be a triage team waiting to asses when you need to be taken care of compared to other patients that come into the emergency room for care. Emergency rooms will have more equipment and can handle a wider variety of cases. If you end up needing surgery, going to the emergency room first will put you in the right place to get treated quickly. But you also run the risk of long wait times. If you need stitches but the triage team sees that the bleeding is contained, you may have to wait in the waiting room for a while to be seen.

When You Should Visit Urgent Care?

Visit an urgent care facility when you need services that your primary doctor would normally help you with. These are things such as sore throats, minor breaks or sprains, UTI’s, and rashes without fevers. Since you don’t have access to a primary care doctor while you are traveling, an urgent care facility can help you get treatment for minor sicknesses and pains so that you don’t need to wait in a long line at the emergency room. Urgent care centers are a better alternative in these cases because an emergency room will most likely put you at the bottom of the list when you go through triage as there will be many life-threatening cases ahead of you. If you have a slow developing illness or think you sprained your foot, an urgent care facility will have the equipment to check your symptoms. Anything serious will probably get you sent to the emergency room as urgent care won’t have the capacity to really help you.

The Difference in Cost

A visit to the emergency room will cost a lot more than a visit to an urgent care facility, no matter the severity of your visit. Hospital visits are usually subject to deductibles while urgent care visits might have a standard copay option. You should visit the emergency room no matter the cost if you have a life-threatening emergency, but for minor aches and pains you can save a few dollars by going to an urgent care facility.

Having a plan in place before you go on your trip will help immensely if you contract an illness or have an accident. Locate the nearest emergency room and urgent care facility to the place you are staying so that you can make a quick decision should you need to make one.

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