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Urgent Care vs Emergency Room, Where Should I Go

by | Feb 10, 2021 | Outpatient Services

When one becomes seriously ill or is injured after business hours, it often means a trip to the emergency room or a visit to an urgent care center.

Making the right decision on which of the two options to visit is not always easy, but getting it right helps one save substantial sums of money and time. So, how do you know when to visit the ER or Urgent Care? We delve into this in this article.

What Is the Difference Between ER and Urgent Care?

An emergency room, sometimes known as the accident and emergency department, is the section of a healthcare facility equipped and staffed to treat patients in need of immediate medical attention for life-threatening situations. Urgent care, on the other hand, offers medical care for people with urgent but not life-threatening problems.

Urgent care centers have basic lab testing, X-ray machines, and equipment for minor procedures. North Texas Medical Center (NTMC) is a special facility that offers both an emergency and urgent care department combination, specializing in trauma, cardiac rehab, and women’s services.

In terms of affordability, urgent care often costs less than emergency room charges. Since urgent centers do not require specialists or as much equipment as an emergency department, the cost of providing attention is less.

Emergency rooms normally prioritize life-threatening health problems at the expense of other minor medical conditions. A person with a non-threatening condition might find themselves waiting in line for hours to see the doctor. At an urgent care center the doctor is able to see patients more quickly, even when a condition is minor and not life-threatening.

The other major difference is that while emergency rooms remain open 24/7, many urgent care centers close operations late in the night.

Which Should I Go to for Immunizations?

Every person requires vaccinations at some point in life, be it government policy, school requirements, or personal health measures. Immunizations help improve the quality of life by keeping serious infections and their spread at bay.

It is important to remember that immunizations are usually scheduled or require prior planning, as they are not an emergency. Most people prefer to use their own primary physician’s office or an urgent care center for immunizations, where it will be done fast since the kind of service they offer is limited and specific.


Should I Go to the ER or Urgent Care During Flu Season?

Those with mild illness do not necessarily require any medical attention and may consider avoiding contact and staying at home to avoid infecting others. However, if flu symptoms are moderate and include: high fever, sore throat or cough, congestion, body aches, loss of appetite, and exhaustion, you should visit an urgent clinic.

This is especially true for high-risk people like infants and toddlers, older people over 65 years, pregnant women, those with suppressed immune systems, and those with chronic illnesses.

What Should You Not Go to the Emergency Room for?

The emergency room is meant to handle life-threatening emergencies. So, if you suffer from mild or non-threatening injuries and illness like sprains and strains, small cuts, common cold or flu, fevers without a rash, vomiting or diarrhea, dehydration, headaches, cough, sneezing, chills, or in need of after-hour care, you do not need to go to the emergency room. Instead, urgent care would be best suited for such cases.

Where Should I Go to for Covid-19 Testing?

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the way people interact and go about their daily lives, with the provision of medical care services greatly affected. Healthcare facilities, hospitals, and clinics alike have had to prepare and have safety measures in place to handle both health emergencies and the coronavirus cases without risking the lives of other patients or that of the medical practitioners.

However, the Covid-19 test kits are not available in all health facilities. NTMC has actively engaged with Cooke County, MMH, and the City of Gainesville, and set up a COVID-19 drive through the testing tent. Those eligible for testing are supposed to strictly schedule an appointment to have their samples taken for testing. After testing, they are expected to self-quarantine until their results come out.

People eligible for testing include those who have the symptoms, those who have had close contact with an infected person, and those referred by a healthcare provider. One can test from both the urgent care and emergency rooms, although they are being advised to avoid the emergency room and test elsewhere if their condition is not critical.

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