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Urgent Care Vs. The Emergency Room

Experiencing a medical situation outside of a primary care provider’s normal office hours is common, and it can be difficult to know exactly what to do. Maybe your infant is running a high temperature, a loved one falls and may have a broken bone, or you’ve suffered a cut you think might need stitches. Immediately turning to an emergency room (ER) can be easy; however, you may be able to save both time and money by visiting an urgent care clinic instead.

When to Go to the ER

Seek care immediately by calling 9-1-1 or visiting the ER for life-threatening injuries or illnesses. Always trust your instincts – get to the ER right away if you believe you have a serious or critical condition. Examples of when to go to the ER include:

Chest pain or

shortness of breath

  • Major burns

  • Severe head trauma or loss of consciousness

  • Uncontrollable bleeding from a severe cut

  • Badly broken bones

  • Disorientation or sudden difficulty speaking

  • Abrupt confusion or other changes in mental abilities

  • Sudden or severe pain

  • Vomiting blood

When to Visit an Urgent Care

Urgent care clinics can provide treatment for injuries or illnesses that are not life-threatening. An urgent care clinic can offer services like x-rays, lab work, and more. Go to urgent care for symptoms such as:

  • Low back pain or other muscle pains or strains

  • Broken bones that are less severe or complex

  • Rashes

  • Minor burns

  • Minor cuts and wounds

  • Nosebleeds

  • Earaches

  • Stomachaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation

  • Headaches and migraines

  • Fever

  • Pain when urinating

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding

Freestanding emergency rooms provide emergency care, but are separate from a hospital. They can look very similar to urgent care clinics, which can cause confusion. However, emergency facilities are not urgent care clinics and may result in much higher out-of-pocket costs. Be aware of the differences between the facilities to ensure you’re actually seeking care at an urgent care clinic. One major difference is that freestanding emergency rooms are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, while most urgent care clinics only operate under certain hours during weekdays and on the weekends.

Understand Costs and Coverage

Many health insurance plans offer coverage for both urgent and emergency care; however, copays tend to be much lower for care received at urgent care clinics. You may also experience much shorter wait times than those in an emergency room. Understanding your insurance coverage and being familiar with urgent care clinics and ERs in your plan’s network can give you peace of mind the next time you need to make a decision about where to seek care. You can explore urgent care and emergency facilities in your plan network.

Securely text, send photos, or video chat with a provider in the app right from your smartphone or computer. Individual and Family Plan Members can access Doctor on Demand for telehealth services. With Doctor On Demand, Individual and Family Plan Members can connect face-to-face with Board Certified doctors and therapists from a phone, tablet, or computer. Get care when and where you need it with 24/7 video chat access.

Remember: Always call 9-1-1 or go to the emergency room immediately for life-threatening injuries or illnesses.

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