Urgent Care vs. Freestanding ERs, What Is the Difference?

May 26, 2016

Sometimes you need to be seen by a physician immediately but you don’t necessarily need to go to the emergency room. That’s why urgent care facilities are so necessary. Texas MedClinic provides walk-in, extended-hour medical care for minor to moderate illnesses and injuries. Urgent care is for those that need treatment quickly, but do not have life threatening injuries or illnesses. With limited availability for primary care physicians, overcrowded ERs and rising healthcare costs, urgent care is an essential care option for our community.

Patients visit ER’s for life threatening emergencies. In the past they’ve even gone to the ER for treatment of non life-threatening illnesses and injuries simply because they couldn’t wait to be seen by their primary care physician after hours or on the weekends.   Today patients choose to visit urgent care facilities for a variety of reasons. A sampling of those reasons are listed below.

  • A primary care physician is not available for immediate treatment of common illnesses such as colds, sore throats, flu, fever and allergies.
  • Treatment is required for minor emergencies such as sprains, strains, cuts requiring stitches, burns, contusions and minor fractures.
  • An illness arises while a patient is traveling on business or with their family and prolonging the symptoms until returning home is not a viable option.
  • Urgent care clinics typically have much shorter wait times than emergency rooms, and at Texas MedClinic physicians are always on duty during facility hours (some clinics are open 24 hours a day).
  • Insurance copays and the cost of services is often times lower at urgent care centers than at freestanding ER’s.

In the past ER’s were always physically located at a hospital. Today, ERs can be stand alone facilities that are not typically physically located near a hospital. These types of ERs are called, Freestanding ERs.  Because these facilities are not physically located at a hospital, patients may mistake them for an Urgent Care Center.

Two of the major differences between an ER and an urgent care facility (once you’ve realized the type of care you need to receive) are cost and wait time. It costs more money for hospitals to support all the equipment and staff that an ER requires so visits to the ER generally cost much more than those to an urgent care center. And, the wait time is generally longer. Emergency rooms treat patients with the most serious conditions first, so patients with less urgent needs will often wait longer to see a doctor. Urgent care centers typically operate on a first-come, first-served basis, but Texas MedClinic’s patient portal allows patients to sign in from home for even shorter wait times.

The most important part about this discussion is getting the care you need when you’re ill or injured. So, when a serious illness or injury strikes, consider the severity of your condition, and your options. Do you need care immediately, or can it wait? Is it during the day when your regular doctor is available, or after regular office hours? For life threatening emergencies do not hesitate to go to an emergency room, for anything else feel free to give us a call. We’d be happy to help you make a decision on the type of care that we think you ought to receive. Texas MedClinic is open seven days a week and we are always just a phone call away.

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