Choosing Between Urgent Care and the ER: Getting the Right Care, Right Away

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Choosing Between Urgent Care and the ER: Getting the Right Care, Right Away

Sometimes home treatment isn't enough when you are sick or have an injury. However, your usual doctor or medical facility might not have an appointment soon enough for you. You need medical care, but knowing where to go is critical to getting the best care.

Sometimes, deciding whether to go to urgent care or the emergency room is easy. But you may not know which option is best in other cases. Although urgent care and the ER can both offer extended hours of care and expanded medical services, they are different.

Minor vs. Major Medical Issues

A serious injury or illness can happen suddenly. And severe pain and symptoms can make it challenging to determine whether to access urgent care or ER services. Thinking of urgent care as a middle ground between your doctor and the emergency room can be helpful. Urgent care can help you when you have an injury or illness that is not life-threatening but needs prompt care within the next 24 hours.

Urgent care centers can treat some types of medical issues but not others. For instance, they can often order specific tests to diagnose a sprain or a respiratory illness. But they may be unable to treat broken bones, uncontrolled bleeding or pneumonia. Not all urgent care centers offer the same services, so getting familiar with your closest urgent care center is a good idea.

Benefits of Urgent Care Centers

Maybe you fell awkwardly after stepping in a hole, and now your ankle is tender and won't support your weight. Or your child has suddenly developed a painful earache. Urgent care centers and emergency rooms can offer many of the same services and types of care. But for many injuries and illnesses, urgent care offers a shorter wait.

Another reason urgent care might be a better choice for you is cost. Often, urgent care centers can offer the same or similar services as an emergency room but at a lower cost. If you have a minor medical issue, visiting your local urgent care center can help you get the medical attention you need more quickly and with less impact on your wallet.

When to Go Straight to the ER

When you are in pain or dealing with difficult symptoms, you might wonder if your condition is severe enough for the ER. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should go straight to an emergency room:

  • Seizures.
  • Compound fractures.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Chest pain.
  • Severe pain in your abdomen.
  • Head injury or sudden and severe headache, weakness, or paralysis.
  • Bleeding that won't stop.

In addition, most ERs operate 24/7, but many urgent care centers close overnight. If you have an injury or illness after hours, you may need to go straight to the emergency room. Even minor medical issues can become major medical problems if enough time passes, so you might not be able to wait until the urgent care opens.

You Don’t Have to Choose at OU Health ER & Urgent Care

At OU Health ER & Urgent Care, you'll find both ER and urgent care services under one roof. When you're not sure if you need emergency care or urgent care, you don't need to decide. Just walk into an OU Health ER & Urgent Care location near you for the appropriate level of care.

Our combined emergency room and urgent care facilities come fully equipped to handle everything from allergies, colds, flu, sprains, cuts and scrapes to chest pain, appendicitis, complex fractures and more. An onsite laboratory, X-ray, ultrasound and CT scanning ensure you receive prompt, accurate diagnosis and the right level of care. Walk in any time for OU Health emergency (ER) services 24/7 or urgent care every day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.