Urgent Care and ER Clinics – What’s the Difference between the Two?

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July 09, 2018
Urgent Care and ER Clinics – What’s the Difference between the Two?
Urgent Care and ER clinics popping up in communities across the United States are making it easier than ever to seek care when we find ourselves in need of medical attention.  But, the differences between the two remain a mystery to many.

The similarities exist primarily in their community-based locations and convenience of care.  Both types of clinics are located in local communities/suburban areas, often in shopping centers separate from a medical center or hospital.  And both offer a level of personal attention and convenience of care typically uncharacteristic of a hospital emergency room.

The differences between an Urgent Care clinic and an ER clinic include:
  • The types of injuries and illnesses they are equipped to treat.
  • The type of diagnostic equipment located onsite.
  • The types of physicians/providers treating patients.
  • The costs associated with the visit and care received.
 
An ER clinic visit is essentially the same as a hospital emergency room visit, and this is reflected in the hefty charges/fees.  This can take many patients by surprise.  While this should not deter an individual who feels they are facing a life-threatening injury or illness, many non life-threatening situations can be addressed just as well, and at a fraction of the cost, at an Urgent Care clinic.

According to a RAND Corp study, nearly 30 percent of emergency department visits could be handled by Urgent Care Centers in retail clinics, saving up to $4.4 billion a year in health costs.

Urgent Care clinics provide care for a broad range of injuries affecting patients of all ages, including lacerations, fractures, sprains and a host of sports injuries. With an onsite X-ray and other diagnostic testing capability, they are able to provide many of the services that a primary care or family medicine physician can provide, though with greater scheduling flexibility, extended hours and clinics open seven days a week.  Some clinics also offer school sports physicals, occupational health services and employer healthcare support programs, complimenting existing employee health benefit plans.

According to the American Academy of Urgent Care Medicine (AAUCM), only 29 percent of primary care doctors have after-hours coverage and Urgent Care centers are, for many patients, the main place for care particularly on the weekend.

“My mission is to prove that we can provide high-quality healthcare without unnecessary expense,” said Juliet Breeze, MD, founder and CEO of Next Level Urgent Care LLC in Houston.

“And while we do not serve as a patient’s primary care provider, we are able to fill the gap of quality care in their absence.  We are partnering with physicians to ensure continuity of care and to provide high value to the community by delivering what patients need – affordably and efficiently,” added Breeze.

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