What Kind of Care Do You Need? The Difference Between Urgent and Emergent Care

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There are certainly a lot of times when we know we need to see a doctor and have the luxury of calling, making an appointment and going in for it. That is the best case scenario for dealing with our health. As everyone knows, we are not always dealing with the “best case scenario.” There are a lot of times when an illness or injury happens on the weekend or at night, what are you to do then? Your doctor’s office is closed and you may not know if you need an emergency room. Luckily it is possible to find convenient medical treatment during the off hours. There are both urgent care clinics and even hybrid clinics that offer both emergency room services and an urgent care center.

When you think about urgent care, it may seem confusing. After all, is that not what is offered at an emergency room? Yes and no. Urgent care centers were started by emergency room doctors who saw that a number of people were going to the emergency room for non-emergencies. One of the most common injuries in the United States is the sprained ankle. This has sent countless people to emergency rooms all over the world but is clearly not an “emergency.” They saw a need for walk in clinics that could provide convenient medical treatment for urgent problems that were not true medical emergencies.

The basic difference between an urgent care clinic and an emergency room is that the former treats people who cannot wait to be seen until their doctor’s office opens but have an injury or illness that does not require hospitalization. An emergency room is there for people whose problem may require them to be admitted to the hospital.

Urgent care clinics provide convenient medical treatment for a surprisingly high number of problems. Some can include (this list is not complete, nor can it be):

  • Muscle sprains and strains. Most urgent care clinics can do x-rays.
  • Minor and moderate back pain.
  • Simple fractures.
  • Upper respiratory infections. This is the most common ailment that is treated at most urgent care centers.
  • Stomach problems such as vomiting, nausea and diarrhea.
  • Ear infections or other ear pain.
  • Urination that is painful.
  • Small cuts and wounds.

Many urgent care clinics also offer travel medicine. This is one area where they may be able to help even more than the primary care physician can. If you are going overseas and need your shots for Yellow Fever or you need to get prophylactic (preventative) treatments for malaria, for example, you may find the urgent care center is the place to go. Call ahead to make sure.

As was noted, there are times when you really need to be seen in the emergency room. Any life threatening conditions that may require hospitalization need to be treated in the hospital emergency room. Examples include:

  • Persistent and serious chest pain or heart palpitations.
  • Any head injury that results in a loss of consciousness.
  • Any symptoms of a stroke such as slurred speech, sudden muscle weakness and facial drooping.
  • Severe pain in the abdomen.
  • Vomiting of blood.
  • A gunshot or stabbing wound.
  • Bleeding that will not stop.
  • High fever in an infant.
  • Compound fracture.
  • Serious burns.
  • Seizures (unless the person has been confirmed to have epilepsy).
  • Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy.

There are other conditions. This is one of the many reasons it is so good to have a primary care doctor. They have after hours services and can be reached when their office is closed. If you have one and are having a problem and are not sure if you need the emergency room or can get convenient medical treatment at an after hours clinics, you can talk to them and they can advice you. If you do so to an urgent care clinic, they will evaluate you and your symptoms and tell you if they think you need an emergency room.

There are many advantages to going to the urgent care clinic over the emergency room. When you are in the emergency room, the wait is at least several hours whereas most urgent care centers get people in and out within an hour.andnbsp;

There is sometimes a third choice. Some cities and localities have combination emergency rooms and urgent care clinics.

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June 2024
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