Urgent Care vs. Stand-Alone Emergency Rooms

Patients often need to make a choice between two options when dealing with similar medical situations: either head to a freestanding ER or an urgent care facility. Depending on your location, both may be convenient options, close by with comparable wait times. But, Houston emergency rooms and urgent care providers offer different types of services.

Urgent Care and Emergency Rooms in Houston

You will receive immediate medical care at both a stand-alone emergency department and urgent care, and people often mistakenly interchange the two. Patients don’t usually visit freestanding emergency rooms in Texas with minor conditions. On the other hand, some people do go to urgent care seeking emergency treatment. In these cases, patients are referred to Houston emergency rooms and vital medical care is further delayed.

Amid a stressful, potentially life-threatening or painful situation, how do you know whether to go to urgent care or a freestanding ER?

Differences Between Houston Emergency Rooms and Urgent Care

Standalone emergency rooms are accessible 24 hours every day. These round-the-clock facilities are equipped to handle just about any condition that comes their way. However, due to the substantial cost of freestanding emergency care, it is in the best interest of most patients with minor illnesses or injuries to seek treatment at a less costly health care provider.

Urgent care is designed to manage minor medical conditions for patients who either don’t have immediate access to a primary doctor or don’t want to wait for an appointment. Urgent care clinics can be more flexible than your regular physician, but these facilities do not offer 24-hour access.

Symptoms Frequently Treated at Stand-alone Emergency Rooms

If you experience any of the following conditions, you should seek treatment at a freestanding ER immediately:

  • High fever, nausea, neck stiffness, and blotchy skin
  • Shortness of breath, tingling in the arm, chest pain
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding others
  • Vomiting, bloating, gas, severe abdominal pain
  • Deep wounds or cuts that need stitches
  • Lingering headache, fever, chills, vomiting and sweating
  • Infant with a high fever

Symptoms Treated at Urgent Care Clinics

These symptoms are less critical than those listed for stand-alone ER care but are suited for treatment at an urgent care center:

  • A severe sore throat and runny nose
  • Fever minus any sign of a rash
  • Ear pain
  • Shallow cut or wound
  • A headache, chills, fever and sweating

If you wait to be treated by your primary physician, these symptoms may escalate and the problem might worsen. A good rule of thumb when it comes to deciding whether or not you should visit an urgent care or a freestanding emergency room at that point is to assess the severity of the condition. More serious conditions should be brought to the attention of emergency physicians in a stand-alone ER. More minor conditions that could be treated by your family doctor could be treated in an urgent care facility.

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