Urgent Care vs. Emergency Visit: What You Need to Know

Maybe your little one has woken up with a sore throat and a fever, or perhaps you sliced your thumb open while preparing dinner — in situations like these, you head out for medical care. But how do you choose between urgent care and the emergency room? 

Here at American River Urgent Care in Orangevale, California, our providers, Andrew Nangalama, MD, and Ayan Mohamud, PA, lead a team of dedicated health care providers who offer outstanding and compassionate urgent care services ranging from vaccinations and physical exams to treating illnesses and injuries for patients of all ages. We hope to clarify the similarities and differences between urgent care and the emergency room, so you can get the level of care you need.

What’s the difference between urgent care and an emergency room?

The primary difference between urgent care and emergency rooms is the concept of an injury or illness being life-threatening. Emergency rooms are set up and staffed to save your life. They typically stabilize your condition and either hold you until you can be admitted to the hospital or release you with aftercare instructions. 

Urgent care also employs trained and qualified doctors and other medical staff, but they’re set up to take care of medical needs that can’t wait until your regular doctor has an available appointment.

Emergency rooms also have much higher fees than most urgent care centers. Also, emergency rooms see patients in order of critical need. So if you go to the emergency room and your life isn’t in danger, chances are you could spend hours waiting to be seen if other patients with more severe issues come in. 

What are the similarities between urgent care and emergency rooms?

Urgent care and emergency rooms are both designed to provide critical medical attention for injuries and illnesses. Both types of medical centers have experienced medical staff on hand to assess your condition and provide the treatment you need. Urgent care clinics usually offer services including X-rays, stitches, immobilization devices for musculoskeletal injuries, and treatments for illnesses like the flu.

When should I go to urgent care, and when should I go to the emergency room?

While every case is different, in general terms you should go to the emergency room if you have:

However, if your life, limbs, or vision aren’t in imminent danger, you should head to American River Urgent Care for all of your other critical medical needs. For example, just some of the conditions we treat include:

We also offer physical exams, vaccinations, and other general health care services as part of our walk-in urgent care clinic.

Reasons to opt for urgent care

The two main reasons that you should choose urgent care for non-life-threatening medical needs are time and money. In an emergency room, patients are seen in order of urgency. If your life isn’t in danger, you will spend hours waiting to be seen. However, when you come into American River Urgent Care, you won’t spend nearly as much time in our waiting room. In fact, if you don’t need immediate care, call us and see if we can schedule a same-day appointment for you.

Additionally, services in the emergency room are significantly more expensive. If you have insurance, you can expect a co-pay of up to $150 or more if you have a high deductible plan. If you don’t have insurance, your bill could reach $3,000, not including lab fees, doctor fees, or ambulance services. 

Emergency rooms provide critical life-saving services, but if you need rapid treatment for a condition that’s not life-threatening, choose urgent care. 

If you need urgent care or other medical services, give us a call or schedule an appointment online today.

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