Emergency Room or Urgent Care Center? Knowing How to Choose.

More than likely, you’ve experienced a sudden health care need and you have probably asked yourself, “Should I go to the emergency room or an urgent care?” But, in those urgent, unplanned situations, you don’t always have time to contemplate.

So, we explain the differences between emergency rooms and urgent cares and when to choose one over the other.

When You Need a Hospital Emergency Room

Hospital emergency rooms provide medical care at any time, day or night. However, unlike urgent care centers, they are equipped and staffed for even the most complex or critical needs, including life-threatening situations ranging from heart attack and stroke to traumatic injuries following a car accident.

If you experience any of the symptoms below that require rapid or advanced treatments, you would want to call 9-1-1 to seek medical attention from an emergency room:

  • Chest pain, left arm pain or left jaw pain
  • Weakness/numbness on one side
  • Stroke symptoms, including slurred speech or sudden numbness/weakness in any area of your body, facial droop, loss of balance or vision
  • Loss of consciousness (fainting)
  • Concussion/change in mental status (i.e., confusion)
  • Serious burns and cuts (cuts that won’t stop bleeding or wounds that won’t close)
  • Head or eye injury
  • Severe allergic reaction (swelling lips, difficulty swallowing or breathing)
  • Broken bones and dislocated joints
  • Fever with a rash
  • Seizures
  • Facial lacerations
  • Vaginal bleeding with pregnancy

When an Urgent Care Center is All You Need

Urgent care centers are same-day clinics that can handle a variety of medical problems that need immediate treatment but are not considered true emergencies.

Unlike an emergency room, an urgent care center is the best option when you become sick or injured when your primary care physician’s office has closed for the day, and you can’t wait for an appointment. In fact, if you decide to go to an emergency room with any of the symptoms below, you could end up wasting your time and money. A study by the National Center for Health Statistics shows that among patients who went to the emergency room but weren’t admitted, 48 percent went because their doctor’s office wasn’t open.

Symptoms that can be evaluated and treated at an urgent care center include:

  • Fever without a rash
  • Vomiting or persistent diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Dehydration
  • Moderate flu-like symptoms
  • Pain with urination
  • Mild asthma attacks
  • Sprains and strains
  • Minor cuts that may require stitches

Regardless of where you go, it’s always good to keep a list of all your medications and dosage amounts in your wallet, including over-the-counter medicine, vitamins, and supplements. You should also keep a list of any allergies (food or medication) and any previous medical procedures or surgeries you’ve had.

Pharma Pac partners with urgent care facilities across the country to provide them with point-of-care medication dispensing solutions to help increase patient adherence. Contact us for more information.