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Walk in Clinic vs. ER: Which Is Best for Your Emergency?

Walk in Clinic vs. ER: Which Is Best for Your Emergency?

Emergency rooms and urgent care centers are much busier than normal these days. Urgent care centers, in particular, are inundated with patients seeking care for more than the usual cuts, colds, and minor burns or back pain that urgent care centers are most commonly used for. People are even more wary of the currently overloaded emergency rooms than they have been in the past.

But urgent care centers and emergency rooms do generally see patients presenting with very different issues and very different issues. Such things as minor injuries, seasonal illnesses, lacerations, muscle injuries, and minor burns or back pain are usually considered the domain of urgent care centers, while life-threatening injuries and illnesses are usually directed to emergency rooms. Only around 3% of issues presenting at urgent care centers need to be escalated to a hospital emergency room. As both resources are overburdened these days, it’s of the greatest importance to understand which to choose in the event of a medical emergency. Read on for a brief guide to the difference between emergency rooms and urgent care centers and how to choose which is best for your emergent health issue.

Benefits of Urgent Care Clinics

Urgent care clinics welcome walk-in patients and accept most insurance plans. They are widely located and there is likely one near you. Because they generally treat more manageable health issues and are independent of community hospitals, they are usually able to see and treat new patients more quickly, reducing wait times. They can also function as vital triage units for local hospitals, appropriately directing more serious and life-threatening cases to local emergency rooms.

Walk-in urgent care locations treat more minor illnesses and injuries than hospital emergency rooms do. They are not necessarily prepared for significant emergent health risks. It can be difficult to know which is more appropriate when you or someone in your family needs urgent healthcare services. Some things will be intuitive: cuts and persistent aches, minor burns or back pain, and seasonal illnesses are appropriate for walk-in clinics. Some other things that many people don’t know can be treated at walk-in medical clinics are allergic reactions, cuts that require stitches, sprains and strains, and even laboratory tests for medication levels and common illnesses such as the seasonal flu.

Benefits of Emergency Rooms

Hospital emergency rooms are prepared to deal with life-threatening issues and serious injuries. Their infrastructure is designed for a broad array of needs, and they are staffed with a wider range of medical professionals than are urgent care centers, from nurses and general physicians to surgeons and specialists.

Because many of the patients visiting are presenting with serious issues, emergency rooms can become overtaxed. So it’s most responsible to limit emergency room visits to only the most threatening health issues, using an urgent care clinic for problems such as minor burns or back pain. Some of the issues for which you should seek care at an emergency room include severe hemorrhaging, allergic reactions that can cause anaphylactic shock, head injuries, injuries or sudden illnesses that cause loss of consciousness, chest pains, respiratory issues, suicidal ideation, and symptoms of cardiac or cerebrovascular issues.

Sudden health issues can be frightening and cause significant anxiety. Knowing what to do when a health risk emerges for you or your family is vital. Choosing an appropriate course can be important not only to the health of the suffering person but also to your community. Certainly, all health issues need attention, from minor burns or back pain to severe accident trauma and chest pain: knowing which option is best for the issues you’re dealing with can have an impact on your health, how quickly you are treated, how prepared the facility you visit is, and the availability of emergency healthcare services to others in your community.