Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room: What are Differences in Services & Costs?

By: Cruz Bernal, M.D.

The difference in clinical services provided at an urgent care and emergency room are related to the severity of the health problem. If the condition is life-threatening, go to an emergency room. If the condition is a minor injury or illness, take advantage of the convenience and affordability available at an urgent care center.

Emergency rooms are for emergency situations. Go straight to a hospital if you have chest pain, difficulty breathing, stroke symptoms, severe bleeding, or trauma. However, if your condition is non-life threatening, an urgent care can provide you fast medical attention usually within an hour. Urgent care centers provide x-ray and lab services and are open late seven days a week.

In a recent study, hospital emergency rooms and free-standing ERs were over 10-times more expensive than an urgent care. It was also found that 75% of emergency room visits could have been treated in an urgent care setting. An average emergency room bill can run over $1300 compared to treatment at an urgent care center that can be significantly less.

With so many free-standing ERs, people have been confused with understanding the difference in services. To be clear, the free-standing ERs carry the same cost of a hospital ER. And yes, although a patient may be seen quickly in a free-standing ER, the cost is equal to a hospital ER bill. Being treated in an urgent care rather than a hospital emergency room or a free-standing ER can save you time and money by getting the right care at the right place.

An urgent care center can treat you for common conditions such as: earache infections; minor cuts; sprains; fever, cold and flu symptoms; allergies; UTIs; and rash or skin irritations. Convenient access to fast, affordable medical care, makes it easy to decide to find an urgent care center close to your neighborhood in case of an unplanned illness or injury. DHR Health has two urgent care centers in McAllen and one urgent care center in Mission. Choosing an urgent care center affiliated with a hospital system provides you with the advantage of having physician specialists available to transition your care to if the need arises.

Understanding the difference between an emergent issue and a medical condition that can be treated at an urgent care center will save you time, money and allow you to receive the treatment needed in a quality manner. If you need more information on what services are available at a DHR Health Urgent Care Center, please call (956) 362-5030.

Source: consumerreports.org; revcycleintelligence.com