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What’s the Difference Between the ER and Urgent Care?

Posted on March 15, 2021

When medical needs arise after office hours, people may choose to head to Urgent Care in one instance but the hospital emergency room (ER) in another. What dictates which is best? A recent article in AJC provides some guidance.

For injuries and conditions that are life-threatening and/or require immediate attention, the report claims that the ER is the place to go. It is also the place for minor injuries and conditions if there are underlying health issues, such as if the patient is on immune-suppressing medication.

The reason, according to the article, is that ERs are staffed with physicians who have access to specialists such as cardiologists, neurologists, and orthopedic surgeons. Emergency departments also have the equipment onsite to diagnose a variety of conditions.

With no other health issues, a patient can have minor injuries and conditions successfully treated at Urgent Care. These clinics may be staffed by physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses and/or doctors, and they generally have the basic equipment to diagnose the common ailments that they treat. Conditions typically treated in Urgent Care include back or muscle pain, earaches, sprains or joint pain, upper respiratory infections, cuts and minor burns, and diarrhea. By contrast, conditions treated in the ER include chest pain, compound fractures, head injuries, pneumonia, seizures, severe abdominal pain, and uncontrolled bleeding.

Hours also are a consideration. You may wind up at the ER because it is open 24/7. Urgent Care clinics typically have more limited hours. They also feature shorter wait times and offer services at a lower cost than the ER.

Regardless of wherever you go, keep in mind that even in the most professional medical environment, mistakes can happen. A poor decision in the ER or at Urgent Care could result in severe and even life-threatening consequences. If you would like to discuss a matter with a Philadelphia attorney for emergency room injury cases, please contact us.