emergency vs non-emergency

Life is pretty unpredictable. One minute you could be okay and healthy, the next one you’re in such intense abdominal pain, you can’t even move. When such a situation occurs, you can get torn between visiting the emergency room or urgent care. But you’re not alone. According to statistics, one in three patients who visit the ER do not require immediate care.

Further surveys show nearly 44% of 65% of ER cases could have been handled by urgent care departments. A separate study shows about 70% of ER visits by patients with personal health insurance covers are non-emergency.

This begs the question, where exactly do we draw the line when it comes to emergency vs non-emergency medical cases? Well, this will remain unsolved until patients understand what exactly is an emergency and what isn’t. That is why below we compiled a comprehensive breakdown of information concerning emergency vs non-emergency care. We’ll also discuss why it’s a good idea to opt for urgent care.

Emergency Room vs Urgent Care: Differences

Identifying the difference between an emergency room and urgent care can be a tad confusing. This is because both terms seem to refer to a medical need that requires quick attention. But regardless of the similarity in terminology, they are entirely different. The differences in emergency vs non-emergency services boil down to the services offered and the pricing. Let’s review.

The Services

Emergency departments offer fast-medical attention to patients with life-threatening conditions. They are equipped with advanced diagnostic and laboratory services, as well as other state of the art equipment.

Thanks to this, these departments can handle even the most complex medical emergencies. They also provide a high level of care. Some of the conditions handled by emergency departments include;

  • Heart attacks
  • Severe chest pains and chest pressure
  • Intense abdominal pain
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Uncontrollable bleeding
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Coughing blood
  • Sudden numbness, dizziness, or loss of coordination
  • Shortness of breath, asthma attacks
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Drug overdoses
  • Vaginal bleeding while pregnant

Urgent care departments, on the other hand, prioritize non-life threatening medical emergencies such as;

  • Minor burns and sprains
  • Animal bites
  • Mild asthma attacks
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Dehydration
  • Nose bleeds
  • Bronchitis
  • Rashes and skin irritation
  • Sore throats
  • Moderate back and joint pain
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Earaches and eye infections
  • Minor cuts that may require stitching

The Pricing

Another significant difference notable while assessing emergency vs non-emergency healthcare services lies in their pricing. Note, ERs usually prioritize advanced, life-threatening emergencies. Thanks to this, they’re more equipped, busier, and consequently, more expensive.

Urgent care departments, on the other hand, are the opposite. Although they’re also well-equipped, you cannot compare them to emergency rooms as they handle less advanced problems. They are also less busy, and as a result, cheaper.

Why Going to Urgent Care is a Good Idea

One thing emergency vs non-emergency care departments have in common is that they’re all adequately equipped and have compassionate healthcare personnel. But, it’s always advisable to visit the urgent care departments if you have a non-threatening medical emergency. This is not just because it’s right, but also because you’ll also get to enjoy quicker Services.

As noted, emergency departments only prioritize life-threatening medical problems. While highly efficient, these ER departments are pretty particular with what they categorize as a life-threatening emergency.

With that said, it might take hours before you receive medical attention while at an ER unless your condition is seriously life-threatening. It takes patients about a two-hour wait to receive any medical attention in an average ER. On the other hand, 90% of urgent care walk-in patients will often see a medical provider within half an hour or less, while 84% of them will be in and out of the premise in less than an hour.It is due to these reasons that more than 27% of U.S. patients reported visiting urgent care centers in the past two years in 2016.

You’ll walk in, and get attended to within a short while for minor injuries and illnesses. Plus, as noted earlier, they’re relatively affordable in comparison to Emergency departments. So, you get not only convenient care but also affordable healthcare services.