Understanding if you can use an urgent care center or if you need to go to the emergency room is an important part of planning your health care services. Knowing which service to use is really a point of evaluating the situation and the medical needs and then choosing the appropriate option.
As a guideline, think of an urgent care center as a medical service to see patients without appointments and without life-threatening injuries. An emergency room is designed to handle life-threatening emergencies or extremely serious injuries where more involved treatment and hospitalization may be required.
If you have any concerns or are not sure, don’t waste time in making phone calls to determine where to take the patient. With profuse bleeding, serious injuries or with the loss of consciousness or breathing difficulties go to the emergency room.
As a general guideline ask yourself:
- Is this an injury or issue that may require hospitalization? – if yes, go to the emergency room associated with the hospital to eliminate the need for additional transportation of the patient.
- Is the condition life-threatening? – if no, choose the urgent care center. These facilities can treat mild to moderate burns, cuts and injuries as well as fractures, strains, sprains and other types of mild to moderate injuries.
- Did I or the person lose consciousness? – neurological issues such as fainting, loss of consciousness or seizures should be seen at the ER unless there is a known cause. If the person is currently being treated for these issues and you have discussed it with the doctor, he or she may recommend urgent care rather than emergency room treatment in specific situations.
Any time you call an ambulance to respond, the patient will be taken to an emergency room. Immediate care services do not provide this level of advanced life support and medical care.