Authored by Revere Health

Urgent Care vs Emergency Room

February 13, 2017 | Family Medicine

Illness or injury is never convenient, and we can’t control getting sick outside of business hours. In these instances, many people visit the emergency room for medical care, without knowing they have another option.

Though there are times where the emergency room is your best (and maybe only) option, many conditions can be treated at an urgent care. Urgent care centers are same-day clinics that provide services for basic, non-emergent conditions with a wider range of hours than most primary care doctors.

Approximately 48% of patients go to an ER simply because their regular doctor’s office is closed, and several of these patients don’t require the level of treatment that emergency rooms are trained to provide. In many cases, patients visit emergency rooms for situations that could have been treated at an urgent care, costing them time and money. Here’s a side-by-side comparison to give you a better idea of which level of care your situation requires.


If you have a life-threatening illness or injury, go to an emergency room. Urgent care facilities treat illnesses or injuries that aren’t life-threatening, and are available if you cannot get in to see your regular care provider. A few conditions that require emergency room services include:

  • Altered mental status, confusion, suicidal thoughts
  • Major injuries or head trauma (e.g. from a car crash)
  • Poisoning
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Constant bleeding
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Broken bones
  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Serious burns
  • Shortness of breath
  • Facial drooping or sudden paralysis


If you or a loved one has any of these conditions, go to your nearest emergency room immediately. For heart attacks, strokes and chest pain (and other serious symptoms like severe bleeding or loss of vision), calling 911 for an ambulance is always a good decision.

Urgent care centers can treat conditions like:

  • Basic fever or flu
  • Minor injuries
  • Nausea or vomiting that isn’t severe and doesn’t include blood
  • Rashes and minor burns
  • Minor bone fractures (especially in smaller bones like fingers)
  • Bites or stings
  • Earaches
  • Injuries needing minor stitches



Cost is a huge consideration in medical care. The average emergency room services can cost up to 20 times as much as urgent care services.

Emergency room: Between $1,233 and $2,168

Urgent care: Between $50 and $150, depending on insurance coverage and the treatment you’re getting

  • Federal law requires emergency rooms to care for all patients, regardless of whether they can pay. Because of this, those without insurance or the ability to pay at the time of service often visit emergency rooms for healthcare needs, even if those needs are non-urgent. According to, it’s estimated that “$18 billion could be saved annually if those patients whose medical problems are considered “avoidable” or “non-urgent” were to take advantage of primary or preventive health care and not rely on ERs for their medical needs.”


The ER does have the advantage as far as availability. Emergency rooms are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Most urgent care facilities, however, do stay open later than a primary care doctor, but they typically close in the evening.

Emergency rooms are a vital part of urgent medical care, but there are other options available in many cases. If your situation isn’t an emergency, visit an urgent care facility. If you are unsure of where you should go, or if you think your situation is serious, trust your instincts. It’s better to be safe than sorry.


Our family practices and 29 medical specialties allow us the opportunity to offer you and your family complete healthcare at any stage of life. Let’s live better



“Differences in Services & Costs.”

“Should You Go to the Emergency Room or Urgent Care?” Scripps.

“Emergency Room or Urgent Care: Where Should I Go?” Cigna Medical Group.


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.