The emergency room and urgent care facilities might seem pretty similar, but they provide different levels of care, typically at different costs. If you’re facing a decision between the two, here are a few things to consider.
Your Reason for Going
The most important thing to think about when deciding between the ER vs. urgent care is your level of need. If you’re having a medical issue that you might normally discuss with a primary care doctor but you simply can’t wait for an appointment, urgent care may be your best bet. Urgent care isn’t suitable for life-threatening emergencies, but it’s the best option for dealing with mild to moderate symptoms of illnesses like the flu, small cuts, sprains and other common ailments.
The emergency room is there for when you’re in a situation that’s life-threatening or that requires immediate action — anything from broken bones to signs of a heart attack or stroke. The ER is open 24 hours a day, making it a good option if nearby urgent care facilities are closed.
If you’re unsure of the severity of the illness or injury, then head to the ER. When it concerns a health emergency, safe is certainly better than sorry.
What You Can Afford
When you or a loved one is sick or injured, your highest priority should always be to seek adequate care. However, if you’ve assessed the situation and you’re still not sure which option is best for you, then it might be time to look at the cost of your visit. With most health insurance plans, the copays for the ER vs. urgent care will vary greatly, and urgent care will almost always cost less than a visit to the emergency room.
The decision between going to the ER and heading to urgent care is usually one that’s made on the spot. Knowing the difference ahead of time can help prepare you to make the right choice for you.