ER vs. Urgent Care - Where Should You Go?
Your primary care provider is the best choice for an acute illness or injury that is not life threatening. But what if your primary care provider is not available? What if you or a member of your family experience an illness or injury after hours, on the weekend, or you simply can't wait for a doctor's appointment? Choosing between an ER and urgent care can often be very confusing, especially if you find yourself suddenly ill or injured.
When to Visit an ER
An ER is appropriate for any life-threatening illness or injury. If you are experiencing chest pain, fainting, loss of vision, shortness of breath or severe abdominal pain then the ER is the correct choice. These facilities are open 24/7 and have all the capabilities to handle any type of medical situation. If in doubt, choosing an ER is usually best. Calling 9-1-1 for chest pain, difficulty breathing or other potential life threatening issues is recommended. At the ER you may experience a wait time before seeing the provider. You will usually have a higher out of pocket cost with your health insurance compared to an urgent care facility.
There are many reasons to seek emergency care at an emergency room or urgent care facility. The difference between emergency care and urgent care is the severity of the condition at hand. There are times when an illness, injury or complication should be taken care of in the emergency room; and there are times that an urgent care center would better suit your medical needs. Calling 9-1-1 for a medical emergency is warranted for someone being unconscious, gasping for air or not breathing. Allergic reactions, chest pains, uncontrollable breathing and other symptoms requiring immediate medical attention also merit a 9-1-1 call.
When in doubt, call 9-1-1. If you feel you need emergency care, call 9-1-1 or find a BayCare ER near you. Some examples of illnesses or injuries that should be evaluated in an emergency room are:
- Broken bones
- Fainting, dizziness or weakness
- Ingestion of poison or medical overdose
- Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Sudden or severe pain, especially in the chest
- Symptoms of heart attack or stroke
When to Visit an Urgent Care Center
Urgent care is the perfect option for more minor illness and injury. Examples would be upper respiratory conditions, urinary tract infections, nausea/vomiting, lacerations and sprains. These facilities are open evenings and weekends. Many have on-site radiology and lab services. They are able to repair lacerations and remove foreign bodies. You will typically receive care quicker and at a lower cost than at an ER.
BayCare Urgent Care is affiliated with the major hospitals in the Tampa Bay area. We offer expert medical care from a group of highly trained and friendly providers. We keep your cost low by providing discounted pricing for self-pay patients. We strive to provide our patients with the best overall experience possible. You can make an online reservation at BayCare Urgent Care with Save Your Spot™. Learn more about BayCare Urgent Care services.
Go to an urgent care center for:
- Animal or insect bites
- Flu/cold/minor Illness
- Minor cuts and burns
- School or sports physicals
- Strains and sprains
- Sutures or stitches
BayCare Urgent Care offers on-site diagnostic services such as X-ray, laboratory testing and EKG, as well as school and sports physicals, vaccinations, immunizations and administration of injections like allergy shots.
Where to Go Scenarios: Urgent Care vs. ER
Sam and Jane
On Saturday, Sam and Jane went for a walk through the park. A man and his dog were walking nearby and suddenly, the dog pulled loose from the man and chased after Sam and Jane, biting Sam’s ankle.
Jane decided to drive Sam to the nearest emergency center for treatment rather than an urgent care center. Sam’s bite was small and required only a few stitches. Sam is insured by Medicare and assumed he would not have much out-of-pocket expense; however, when Sam received his bill he was shocked.
Had Sam gone to the local urgent care center instead of the ER, he would have received the same treatment, but his out-of-pocket expense would have been very different.
Meghan and Avery
Avery and her family were spending the day at the community pool. As Avery walked on the pool deck, she stepped on a bee and was stung.
Avery’s mom, Meghan, decided to drive Avery to the nearest emergency center for treatment. Meghan has Avery included on her health insurance plan through work and assumed she would not have much out-of-pocket expense; however, when Meghan received the bill she was shocked.
Had Meghan taken Avery to the local urgent care center instead of the ER, Avery would have received the same treatment, but Meghan’s out-of-pocket expense would have been very different.
Not Sure Where to Get Care?
We know health care can be confusing. When you or a member of your family is sick or injured, the only thing that matters is getting the right care at the right place. If you’ve ever spent hours online trying to research your symptoms and find the right treatment option, the HealthNav™ app from BayCare can help you can identify your symptoms quickly and get connected to treatment options nearby. Get started with HealthNav™.