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Important Insights on the Differences Between Urgent Care Clinics and Emergency Rooms

Dec 28, 2022

Urgent Care

Important Insights on the Differences Between Urgent Care Clinics and Emergency Rooms

When you are suddenly injured or sick, you might look for immediate medical attention. However, at the same time, you might be thinking about where to go for care, either to an urgent care center or emergency room. While the answer depends on the problem you have, knowing the difference between a walk-in urgent care clinic and a hospital emergency room is crucial to make an informed decision.

How Is an Urgent Care Clinic Different from an Emergency Room? 

Urgent care centers are walk-in clinics intended to treat non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries that require immediate medical assistance. They are equipped to perform lab tests, X-rays, suture wounds, provide vaccinations, etc. Urgent care clinics have stipulated business hours, but also can be available outside of the primary care centers’ business hours, including on evenings and weekends. So, you can get the required medical care on all seven days of the week at most locations.

On the other hand, emergency rooms treat life-threatening conditions requiring immediate attention, including severe injury or allergy, loss of a limb, possible signs of a stroke or heart attack, etc. Like urgent care centers, ERs are also equipped with on-site testing and screenings for quick diagnosis and treatment. ERs are open 24/7 including holidays, guaranteeing medical care round the clock.

When Should You Visit an Urgent Care Clinic?

You should visit an urgent care clinic upon experiencing non-life-threatening medical conditions or illnesses, such as:

     Minor fractures

     Back pain

     Scrapes, cuts, and bumps                                           

     Ear or sinus pain                                                 

     Minor allergic reactions


     Nausea and vomiting                                

     Minor headaches   


     Cold or flu symptoms

     Sore throat or cough                                      

     Eye irritation, pain, or swelling

     Animal and insect bites

     Foreign object removal


     Sprains and strains

     Mild asthma

     Rashes and minor burns

When Should You Visit an Emergency Room?

Seeking emergency care is crucial for the following symptoms or conditions:

     Chest pain

     Severe burns


     Serious trauma


     Difficulty breathing

     Severe abdominal pain


     Deep cuts and abrasions with uncontrollable bleeding

     Pregnancy-related medical conditions

     Severe or persistent vomiting

     Sudden vision loss


     A fever above 103°F or that lasts more than 3 days

Urgent Care Vs. Emergency Room – Which Is Better?

While visiting ERs is inevitable for life-impacting medical issues, urgent care centers are a great option for receiving care in no time. However, still, you must consider the following things when deciding between the two:

     Urgent Care Centers Have Shorter Wait Times

The average wait time at the ER is 55.8 minutes, whereas urgent care centers have average wait times of 20 to 30 minutes. Some urgent care centers also offer online check-in facilities, where you can book your appointment to avoid wait times and get seen quickly. However, you cannot reserve your spot or book an appointment at the ER, as the care will be provided on an emergency basis (like who has come with a more serious issue). So, you may have to wait for your turn to get seen.

     An Urgent Care Visit Is Affordable

The average cost of visiting an urgent care is $100 to $150, but an ER visit may cost up to $345. Though you have health insurance, getting seen by in-network providers can be difficult at the ER, as mostly you would visit the ER in an emergency and you may not have time to check these things at all. So, rarely your insurance will come into play. Nevertheless, urgent care centers have affordable payment options and accept copays depending on their insurance network. So, visiting an urgent care center will be cheaper than an ER.

     Urgent Care Centers Offer Greater Convenience

Most urgent care centers have board-certified physicians, nurse practitioners, and access to specialists like neurologists, urologists, dermatologists, etc. While an ER is not a place for other medical services, urgent care centers may offer primary care services and physical exams. So, you can visit them to get these services too without appointments. Overall, urgent care centers provide the best care in your time of need with greater convenience.

So, unless you are experiencing a potentially severe medical issue or condition, you can skip the ER and visit an urgent care clinic.

Looking for the Best Urgent Care Clinic in Chicago? Visit Metro Urgent Care Today!

At Metro Urgent Care, we are committed to providing the highest possible medical care to people across Chicago and surrounding areas. From urgent care services to injury care, pediatrics care, and tests and screenings, we provide various services under one roof on a walk-in basis. We have certified and experienced providers who can create customized treatment plans to ensure your optimal physical health. Contact us today or walk into our clinic for care when you need it most.

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