5 Reasons to Go to an Urgent Care Center Rather Than the ER

5 Reasons to Go to an Urgent Care Center Rather Than the ER

You’re out living your life, going about your business, and suddenly you find yourself with an injury or an illness.

It’s easy to panic if you don’t know what’s wrong, but no one wants to make an unwarranted trip to the emergency room. It’s expensive, time-consuming, and downright unpleasant.

Many people end up in the ER because they don’t realize they have another option. One study found that almost half of ER patients who aren’t admitted to the hospital went to the ER because their doctor’s office was closed.

If you can’t get to your doctor’s office before closing time, an urgent care center could be a better option. Here’s why.

Why Go To an Urgent Care Center Instead of an ER

You might think, “An ER can do everything an urgent care center can and more. Why not go there?” There are plenty of reasons to consider.

1. Faster Care

Despite what you might expect, emergency rooms aren’t run on a first come first served basis. They prioritize patients based on how serious their conditions are.

If you’re not 100% sure you need to go to an ER, chances are that you aren’t sick enough to top the list. As a result, you could end up waiting for hours before you get treatment.

An urgent care center, on the other hand, doesn’t have to put off your case to deal with life-threatening illnesses. Chances are that you’ll be examined, treated, and on your way faster at an urgent care center.

2. Cost Differences

When you’re in a life-threatening emergency, cost is the furthest thing from your mind. When your injury or illness isn’t as severe, though, you have to consider the financial consequences you could face.

If you don’t have health insurance, emergency rooms are far more expensive than urgent care centers. You could pay thousands more for the same medical care you’d be getting at urgent care.

If you do have insurance, the difference may not be as large but emergency rooms are still more expensive. Most insurance agencies have higher co-pays for emergency rooms than they do for urgent care.

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3. Availability

Taking time out of your busy schedule to go to a doctor is never easy. It’s even harder if you’re driving farther to get a level of care you don’t need.

Chances are that you have an urgent care center closer to you than an emergency room. You probably have several nearby urgent care centers. If one is too busy and you can’t get urgent care here, you can head to another center.

Keep in mind that some urgent care centers offer more services than others. If you know there’s a specific treatment you’ll probably need, call ahead to find out which care centers provide that treatment.

4. Less Stress

They might not always be what you see on ER and Grey’s Anatomy, but emergency rooms are hectic places. You never know when someone is going to come in with a horrible injury.

This can make it a stressful and even traumatic experience. Especially if you have kids with you, they may see things in the emergency room that they aren’t prepared for. Urgent care centers, on the other hand, are unlikely to have this problem.

This doesn’t mean that if you know you need an emergency room you should second-guess it out of fear. It means that if you aren’t in a serious emergency, you should go to an urgent care center rather than risking the experiences you may have in an ER.

5. Adequate Care Time

If you’re seeking medical care, it’s because you’re concerned about your health. In those situations, you don’t want to be rushed out the door or feel like the doctor didn’t provide adequate care.

As we mentioned above, if you aren’t sure if you need an ER, chances are that you won’t be their first priority. This doesn’t just impact your waiting time. It also cuts down on the amount of time the doctor can spend with you.

After all, put yourself in the doctor’s shoes. Would you spend half an hour answering every question a patient has about their head cold while doctors in the next room need help to save a car crash victim’s life?

At an urgent care center, on the other hand, the providers aren’t likely to be spread so thin. They’ll be able to spend more time explaining your condition and answering any questions you have.

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When You Need an Emergency Room

With all these reasons above for choosing urgent care over an ER, it’s important to recognize when you do need an emergency room. There are certain situations that are worth your trip to the ER.

Among others, those cases include:

  • You have signs of a life-threatening condition like a heart attack or stroke
  • You’re having trouble breathing
  • You have a broken bone with obvious disfigurements, such as a visible bone
  • You have an injury that’s leading to severe blood loss
  • You’re coughing up blood or vomiting blood

When it comes down to it, there are times when you have to listen to your gut. If you feel that your condition is life-threatening or limb-threatening, an ER is the way to go.

If you still aren’t sure, you can also call a medical professional for help. Call your general practitioner’s office to ask what they suggest. If they aren’t open, call the urgent care center you’re considering visiting. Ask if they can help you or if you need to go to an emergency room.

Making the Right Choices for Your Health

It’s fantastic that we have so many healthcare options from doctor’s offices to urgent care to emergency rooms. With great choices come great confusion, though, when you aren’t sure what facility is best for your needs.

The next time you need medical care, use the tips above to decide if an ER is necessary or if an urgent care center is a better option. By knowing where to go you can get the care you need with as little impact as possible on your schedule and your wallet.

Want more advice to help you live a healthier, happier life? Check out our health tips blog.

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