The Difference Between ER, Urgent Care, and Doctors

Emergency care

There was a time that your only hope for getting medical care was if the traveling doctor happened to be in your area at the time that you needed him. Fast forward a century or two, and we’ve come a long way. Now, we have a choice of dozens of local doctors to seek care with to ensure that we have the greatest health possible. If we have a life threatening emergency, we can go to the emergency room; a medical facility designed for no other purpose than saving lives. When we have a medical need that isn’t quite an emergency but still needs to be treated before we can get in to see the doctor, we have 9,000 urgent care facilities spread across the United States at our disposal.

In fact, we have so many options for seeking medical care available to us, it’s hard to know which option is best in each scenario. To help you to that end, we’ve put together a quick overview:

Demystifying the Difference Between Emergency Room, Urgent Care, and Family Physicians

  1. When to See Your Doctor

    Sometimes people think that since there are walk in clinics to meet their non-emergency medical needs, they don’t need to have a family doctor. This really isn’t the case. Although urgent care and emergency rooms provide an extremely important place in our medical infrastructure but they don’t take the place of your doctor. Your doctor is in the best position to establish a relationship with you, to understand your medical history and your particular needs and challenges. When it comes to creating a medical regimen that gives you the best ongoing care and health.

    Also, developing the best medical plan sometimes takes some tweaking over the course of time. Your medical provider will give you a treatment, and then increase or reduce the dosage until you reach the optimum results. This requires a partnership between you and your doctor. The urgent care and emergency room options do not offer the relationship that you’d need to do this.

    Go to Your Doctor:

    • When your medical need does not require attention sooner than you’d be able to get an appointment.
    • When you need to establish or change ongoing care.
    • To follow-up on treatment you’ve received, if directed by the medical provider to gave you the care.

  2. When to Go to Urgent Care

    By definition, urgent care is for medical needs that should be addressed within less than 24 hours. However, an urgent care can really provide far more care than this. Many times, the medical needs you have can be more conveniently addressed by an urgent care facility. For example, perhaps you need a lab test or a physical review but are not available during the business hours that most doctor’s offices keep. Thankfully at least 70% of urgent care facilities are open during nights and weekends, so that you can walk in without an appointment at your convenience. Also, sometimes the urgent care provides care that your doctor just doesn’t offer. This includes IV fluids, or x-rays and fracture care.

    Go to Urgent Care:

    • When you need an appointment before your doctor can fit you in.
    • For treatment that is not life-threatening that your doctor doesn’t provide, such as breathing treatments, or lab work.
    • For treatment on nights and weekends, so that you can get care without taking time off of work.

  3. When to Go to Emergency Room
    The emergency room serves one vital purpose in our medical infrastructure: to treat life-threatening injuries or illnesses. This means that if you are experiencing a medical issue in which you life is in danger, do not waste any time going to your own doctor (whether you have an appointment or not), and do not go to urgent care first. You should always immediately go to emergency room.

    Go to Emergency Room:

    • When you are unable to breath.
    • If you are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack or stroke.
    • When you experience a traumatic injury to the head or spine.
    • If you have a compound fracture, where the bone is protruding from the skin.
    • If you are bleeding profusely (especially if the blood has a pulsing flow)
    • If you experience loss of consciousness.

Do you have any other questions? Please share below.

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