Emergency Care Services vs. Urgent Care Services
You’re Sick or in Pain – Is It an Emergency?
When you’re sick or in pain, you want answers. However, there are conditions that require prompt medical attention but are not emergencies.
A recent study estimated that up to 27% of patients treated at an emergency room could have received the care they needed from an urgent care center or their primary care physician. However, if you are at all unsure if your condition is life-threatening, you should visit an emergency room as soon as possible.
What Is the Difference Between Emergency and Urgent Situations?
An emergency medical condition is one that appears suddenly, and, if not treated immediately, can cause the loss of life, limb, or bodily organs and functions. Emergent conditions are often marked by severe pain and/or dramatic reductions in physical or mental capabilities. Any medical condition that is not an emergency but still requires treatment within 24 hours is considered urgent.
When Should I Go to the Emergency Room?
If you’re experiencing any of the following, the emergency room is the right option:
- Severe shortness of breath
- Chest pain; numbness in the face, arm or leg; difficulty speaking
- Cut or wound that won’t stop bleeding
- High fever with stiff neck, mental confusion or difficulty breathing
- Unexplained or sudden loss of or change in consciousness
- Obvious broken bones
- Coughing or vomiting blood
- Head, neck or spine injury
- Severe burn
- Electric shock or lightning strike
- Convulsion or seizure
- Severe abdominal pain
- Possible poisoning or overdose
- Severe allergic reaction
When Should I Seek Urgent Care?
Urgent care centers can treat medical issues that need to be addressed right away but aren’t emergencies. If you can’t see your primary care physician soon enough, visit the urgent care center for the following concerns:
- Sore throat
- Low-grade fever
- Minor cuts or burns
- Recurring chronic non life-threatening condition
Be Prepared for a Medical Emergency
In any medical crisis, it’s best to be prepared. Make sure you program all emergency numbers into your cell phone or keep a list by your telephone at home. If you believe you are experiencing a medical emergency, dial 9-1-1.