The decision of whether to head to an emergency room or an urgent care center is a primary concern for families on a budget. However, the general rule is that non-urgent conditions are best treated at urgent care centers, while possible fatal situations are best dealt with at emergency rooms.
Below are the differences between seeking medical assistance in an emergency room or an urgent care center.
E.R. patients receive any of the five levels of care. The first level is for minor problems like ear infections, while the following levels are for cuts that need stitches or more. Meanwhile, the highest level is for more severe issues like broken bones, and the degree for care at this stage is more critical than the first four levels.
Some non-urgent cases end up being addressed in emergency rooms because federal law requires E.R.’s to give care to all patients even if they don’t have the financial means to pay. Since hospitals cannot turn patients away if they don’t have insurance or money to pay the costs, they use emergency rooms to address these concerns. However, doing so will put pressure on the individuals responsible for the E.R., and it lessens their ability to respond to other emergencies.
Urgent care centers
Urgent care centers provide medical care for urgent cases under the supervision of a primary care physician. These centers emerged in the 1990s and now serve more than 70 percent of Americans who do not have access to doctors at nights or on weekends. Urgent care centers cater to patients every day until late evening, which means making an appointment is often unnecessary.
Those who staff urgent care centers are often emergency room physicians who can perform the same services in the emergency room or doctor’s office. However, they do not have the medical equipment that an E.R. has to deal with life-threatening conditions. Having said that, they do have x-ray machines, lab tests, flu shots, and casts for broken bones. Another important note is that urgent care centers don’t store patient medical histories, unlike primary care doctors.
When to rush to an emergency room
You will need to rush someone to an emergency room if it’s a matter of life and death. Some symptoms are borderline fatal that only trained medical professionals can accurately diagnose the condition. If that’s the case, going directly to the E.R. is the best option.
You must go to an E.R. immediately if you or someone in your household is experiencing paralysis, intestinal bleeding, severe body pains, poisoning, and shortness of breath. High fevers or rashes among children require emergency room attention, as well. Severe head injuries, unconsciousness, and vaginal bleeding can also be treated at the E.R. Call the emergency hotline at once so that an ambulance will transport you to the hospital while providing the necessary medical treatment before you even get there.
When to go to an urgent care center
If your situation is urgent, but not a matter of life and death, then the services of an urgent care center may be best. Some conditions associated with these centers include fever, insect bites, allergies, diarrhea, cuts that require stitches, minor back pains, and urinary tract infections. X-ray and laboratory tests are for urgent care centers, as well.
Don’t let a preventable situation escalate into something fatal. If you or a loved one is falling ill or was involved in an accident, do not hesitate to make the emergency call to let medical professionals provide medical care. Acting as fast as possible can be the difference between life and death.
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