Urgent Care Centers vs. Emergency Rooms – What’s the Difference?

A woman looks between an urgent care and emergency room, trying to decide where to go
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Many people are confused about the difference between an emergency room and an urgent care clinic. The vast majority of ER visits could have been treated at an urgent care center much more quickly and for a fraction of the cost. Use this guide to help make the best choice.

Urgent care centers are walk-in clinics equipped to handle all non-life threatening illnesses and injuries such as:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Rashes
  • Ear infections
  • Flu
  • Lacerations
  • Possible fractures
  • Burns

No appointment is necessary, and they are open on weekends, many holidays, and evenings.

Emergency rooms should be utilized only in life-threatening situations or when immediate care is required outside of urgent care center hours. An emergency room visit is necessary for major trauma, loss of consciousness, heart attacks, chest pain, and uncontrollable bleeding. They are much more expensive than urgent care centers and often have long wait times.

The average cost of an urgent care visit is $150, and nearly all procedures are covered by insurance. The average cost of an emergency room visit is $1,233. A 2010 study that listed average costs by ailment found the following cost differences:

  • Ear Ache – $400 on average at an emergency room vs. $110 on average at an urgent care center
  • Sore throat – $504 on average at an emergency room vs. $94 on average at an urgent care center
  • Urinary tract infection – $665 on average at an emergency room vs. $112 on average at an urgent care center

Not only do urgent care centers save money, they also save time as well. The average wait time at an urgent care center is less than an hour, compared with an average wait time at an emergency room of 244 minutes. Also, emergency rooms treat patients according to the severity of their condition, so longer wait times are especially possible for those with less critical ailments.

Integrity Urgent Care Clinic is now open with two convenient locations serving the Bryan/College Station and Copperas Cove areas. We’re open daily from 8 am – 8 pm. Walk-ins are encouraged and appointments are never necessary. Visit our locations page to find an urgent clinic near you.

Sources: https://www.debt.org/medical/emergency-room-urgent-care-costs/

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