When faced with a sudden medical situation, many people opt for emergency rooms. However, this does not mean that such a selection will be in your best interest. In fact, research shows that emergency rooms used for non-emergencies, can lead to unnecessary testing and treatment, and even increased costs. Therefore, serious or sudden medical conditions, which are not emergencies, are usually better when handled in urgent care centers. So, when should you choose an urgent care center over an emergency room?
The Difference between an Urgent Care Center and an Emergency Room
Knowing where to go when in need of urgent medical attention can at times be tricky, especially when you need assistance after hours or your primary doctor is not available. Do you need an urgent care center, or is your situation so serious that you need to go to the emergency room? Choosing between these two requires you to do self-evaluation and see whether yours is a major or minor condition.
An urgent care center can act as a short-term replacement for your normal doctors. Most urgent care centers are open during the weekends and evenings. They provide regular medical care that can be performed by a primary physician. These centers can handle health conditions such as flu, sprained ankle, earaches, and minor burns and cuts. Urgent care centers conduct simple lab tests. However, they lack the equipment to do operations.
On the other hand, emergency rooms are found in hospitals. Therefore, they are usually ready for almost any kind of situation. Hence, emergency rooms are best suited for bigger health complications. Some major offerings of emergency rooms include ultrasounds, radiology labs, operating rooms, CAT scans and MRIs, and access to physicians of different medical disciplines.
An Urgent Care Center Offers an Alternative to High Costs and Long Waits of Emergency Rooms
Emergency rooms receive a lot of traffic, a situation that can cause delays to anyone seeking medical help for a non-life threatening condition. Research by the National Institute of Health (NIH) shows that urgent care centers treat their patients in less than 30 minutes. Comparing this to the over 2 hours that people take at the emergency room, it is clear that urgent care centers are time efficient for minor health issues. Nevertheless, the reason why ERs consume a lot of time is quite clear – doctors at emergency rooms have to triage their patients in regards to the seriousness of their medical condition. Due to this, patients with life-threatening complications will always be handled first. Since urgent care centers barely get any patient with extreme symptoms, they can treat their patients on a first come first served basis. This means that you do not need an appointment, although it can help you get in and out of the facility quite fast.
In addition, ERs attract high costs due to expensive medical equipment used, and the use of highly regarded medical experts. To avoid these hassles, you should consider using urgent care centers if you have medical conditions that are not serious such as sprains, minor fractures, strains, minor burns, and rashes. You will definitely save a lot of time and money compared to using an emergency room. In addition to this, many urgent care centers take insurance. Meaning, your medical bill with an urgent care is quite low. If you have a minor health condition, then take advantage of the convenience, speed, and affordability of your local urgent care.
An Urgent Care is Surprisingly Capable of Handling Different Medical Conditions
Most people have no idea that urgent care centers are quite capable of treating numerous medical conditions. This is the main reason why most people opt for ERs. Urgent care centers have the capability to treat fevers, earaches, flu, bronchitis, and seasonal allergies. Moreover, an urgent care center is well equipped to deal with serious complications like broken bones or cuts. In addition to this, urgent care centers can also conduct lab tests, X-rays, provide relief for rashes, and treat bites and burns. From this information, it is clear that many people have the misconception that ERs are better than urgent care centers.
What is a Medical Emergency?
In general, a medical emergency can be described as a condition that puts your life at danger. Examples of illnesses requiring urgent medical attention include heavy bleeding, heart attack, convulsions and seizures, gunshot wounds, severe burns, severe abdominal pain, serious head injury, and stroke symptoms. In case you experience such a condition, you should consider dialing 911 for urgent help. In such occasions, you will most likely have to go to an emergency room.
How to be Prepared When Going to an Urgent Care Center or Emergency Room
Whether your medical situation requires you to go to an urgent care center or emergency room, it is always good to prepare yourself beforehand. Consider carrying all your medications, including vitamins and supplements, if you have any. This will greatly help your doctor when giving treatment.
Furthermore, remember to bring a list of any allergies, including medical ones, and any previous surgeries or medical procedures you have gone through. Additionally, remember to carry any relevant information that could help your doctor in diagnosing your condition. This information is critical as it helps your physician understand your medical history, offering you the best possible treatment.
Should that pain in your chest or cut on your finger send you to an emergency room or urgent care center? It is a bit hard to make a decision. Luckily, the information in the article has provided a clear description of where to go depending on the kind of medical attention you need. As aforementioned, life-threatening conditions such as serious head injury or heart attack need you to visit an emergency room. However, illnesses that are not life threatening like flu or fever can be handled at an urgent care center. Urgent care centers provide you with access to quality healthcare when your regular doctor’s center is closed.