When to Choose Urgent Care Over Emergency Medicine


Knowing when to seek out emergency medical care versus urgent care can be confusing and overwhelming. What is the difference between them, and how do you know when a medical emergency requires the attention of an emergency room?

These are important questions to consider—especially in times of high stress. Let’s break down when it may be best to choose urgent care over emergency medicine, according to Dr. Samuel Bride, who completed his MA and MD from the Boston University School of Medicine, Boston.

What is the Difference Between Emergency Medicine and Urgent Care?

Emergency medicine focuses on life-threatening conditions or injuries that require immediate medical attention, such as chest pain or difficulty breathing.

Urgent care is designed for illnesses and injuries that require prompt treatment but are not severe enough to warrant a trip to an emergency room. Examples include sprains, minor burns, ear infections, and flu-like symptoms such as fever, body aches, sore throat, and coughing.

When Should You Visit Urgent Care?

Urgent care centers are ideal for non-life-threatening situations that require quick treatment.

  • If you have a cold that won’t go away or a cut that needs stitches but isn’t life-threatening, then urgent care would be your best bet.
  • It’s also important to note that many urgent care centers offer laboratory testing services such as blood tests and imaging services such as X-rays, making them an ideal choice if you need quick test results.
  • Additionally, some centers provide IV fluids and oxygen therapy for those suffering from dehydration or asthma attacks.

What Are The Benefits Of Choosing Urgent Care?

  • Choosing an urgent care center can save you time because there is usually little wait time compared with hospital emergency rooms.
  • Plus, they offer extended hours on nights and weekends, so you don’t have to worry about taking off work or school during normal business hours.
  • Furthermore, most insurance plans cover visits to urgent care centers, so you don’t need to worry about paying out of pocket for expensive treatments or tests.
  • Finally, most centers employ board-certified physicians who specialize in treating non-life threatening injuries and illnesses quickly yet effectively—so you can rest assured knowing your health is in good hands.                                                                                                                                             

What Should You Do Before Visiting An Urgent Care Clinic? 

Before visiting an urgent care clinic, it’s important to research their policies regarding payment methods (cash vs. credit), insurance coverage (do they accept my plan?), and whether they have any specialties (are they equipped to treat my condition?).

Additionally, it’s always best practice to call ahead of time so you can get all the information needed prior to going in person for treatment—that way, you’ll know what kind of wait times you’re up against before arriving at the clinic. 


In short, knowing when it’s necessary to visit an emergency room versus an urgent care center can be tricky—especially if your symptoms don’t seem overly serious but still need prompt attention from a qualified physician.

Understanding what sets each type of service apart will help ensure that you receive the proper treatment while minimizing any unnecessary costs associated with seeking medical attention too soon or too late, depending on your situation!

Ultimately remember this rule of thumb: if it takes more than one visit with over-the-counter medication, then it’s probably time for medical assistance – at your nearest urgent care center!

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