MedSpring Viewpoints

5 ways an urgent care differs from an ER

Urgent care vs. emergency room: what are the real differences? Are they different? In this blog, we explore some of the key differences between the two medical facilities.

  1.  An urgent care is for NON-EMERGENT medical concerns.
    While this may sound obvious, an urgent care can treat minor emergencies and illnesses – like the flu, upper respiratory infections, sprains, and minor cuts. For true emergencies, go to an ER.  Of course, if you accidentally walked into a MedSpring Urgent Care with an emergency, we would triage and attempt to stabilize you, and call the ambulance to transport you to the nearest emergency room.
  2. Urgent care centers are typically open after-hours and on weekends, but they are typically not open 24/7.
    MedSpring is open every day, from 8am until 8pm so while we can treat your minor emergencies during those extended hours, you’ll need to visit an ER in the middle of the night.  Additionally, for certain holidays most urgent care centers have amended hours whereas an emergency room must be open 24/7, even on holidays.
  3. Cost for an urgent care is less than an ER as indicated by your insurance plan.
    Check your insurance card for urgent care vs. emergency room to see co-pay differences. Typically, an urgent care can cost hundreds of dollars less than an emergency room.
  4. Often, urgent care visits last fewer hours than an ER.
    While some freestanding ERs (those not connected to a hospital) boast they get patients seen quickly, the time for overall treatment can add up… and last hours.  However, at MedSpring, most entire visits last under an hour.
  5. Many top reasons for ER visits could have been handled in an urgent care setting.
    According to the NCBI, superficial injury (like sprains, open wounds, and contusions) were some of the top five reasons in all age groups for emergency department visits resulting in discharge; sprains, minor wounds and contusions can be treated at an urgent care.

In terms of assessing whether to walk into an urgent care clinic or an emergency center, our Chief Medical Officer Dr. Scott Burger says “If you are concerned that you are having a life-threatening medical condition, you should go to an emergency department. However, if your condition is less serious visiting an urgent care is probably the right decision. Urgent care centers are designed to care for many acute illnesses, minor trauma including broken bones, lacerations requiring stitches, and a variety of other conditions. Emergency departments are designed to deal with conditions like heart attacks, strokes, conditions that may require urgent surgery, and anything else that could imperil a person’s life.”

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