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Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room: What’s the Difference?

You’re cutting strawberries and you accidentally slice your thumb. The pain isn’t terrible, but the cut looks deep. It’s bleeding badly. So, what do you do? Do you visit your local emergency room (ER)? Or head to the nearest urgent care center?

This is a type of dilemma many people face. Urgent care centers are popping up across the country, but most people don’t know what makes them different from emergency rooms. When should you head straight to an ER?

Let’s get to the bottom of these questions.

When to Go to Urgent Care

Urgent care centers like GoHealth Urgent Care are perfect for most non-emergency situations. They’re also ideal if something happens outside of normal business hours of 9 to 5. For example, most GoHealth Urgent Care clinics are open until 8:00 p.m. on weekdays and from 9:00 am to 4:00 or 5:00 on weekends, when most doctors’ offices are typically closed. Be sure to check the location hours located on each center page!!

You should visit an urgent care center if you experience any of the following:

  • Minor fractures

  • X-rays                                                                       

  • Back pain

  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea                                 

  • Minor headaches                                                    

  • Blood work                                                  

  • Bumps, cuts and scrapes                                               

  • Fever

    • ER may be more appropriate for infants and toddlers though                                                             

  • Ear or sinus pain                                                  

  • Vaccinations                                                             

  • Cough or sore throat                                         

  • Lab services

  • Animal bites

  • Stitches

  • Sprains and strains

  • Mild asthma

  • Foreign objects in the eyes or nose

  • Allergies

  • Rashes and minor burns

  • Burning with urination

  • Eye irritation, swelling or pain

  • Minor allergic reactions

  • Cold or flu symptoms

You may be thinking, an emergency room will treat these problems, too. Why go to urgent care? Here are a few reasons:

  1. 90% of urgent care patients wait 30 minutes or less to see a provider. GoHealth Urgent Care's website has a handy timeclock that automatically tells you the expected wait upon arrival.

  2. 84% of urgent care patients are in and out within an hour.

  3. Walk-ins are welcome, and there’s no need to schedule an appointment ahead of time, though doing so can get you in and out more quickly.

  4. Urgent care is more affordable. An ambulance ride to an ER can cost around $1,200 or more!

  5. Urgent care can be found in convenient, nearby locations like shopping centers and commercial plazas.

  6. Most urgent care centers take insurance. GoHealth Urgent Care is in-network with most major insurance providers, Medicare, Medicaid, worker’s compensation and motor vehicle insurance. We even partner with businesses.

When to Go to an Emergency Room

Emergency rooms are perfect for emergency situations. If you have a life-threatening condition, go straight to your nearest ER. Such conditions include:

  • Chest pain

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Stroke

  • Head trauma

  • Severe bleeding

  • Loss of vision

The difference between urgent care and emergency rooms is the severity of the health problem. If the condition is life-threatening, go to an emergency room.

If the condition is a minor illness or injury, take advantage of the convenience and affordability your local GoHealth Urgent Care has to offer!

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