Why Understanding the Difference Between Emergency and Urgent Care Can Actually Mean Life Or Death


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There are a lot of grey areas in life, from determining your relationship status — or whether or not you’ve landed yourself smack dab in the friend zone — to whether telling a “white” lie to boss about why you skipped out early on a Friday afternoon, to healthcare.

Yes, healthcare simply isn’t as cut and dry or as black and white as you might think. In fact, the growing popularity of urgent care centers has caused so much patient confusion that the healthcare industry has become all sorts of fifty shades of confusing grey.

While urgent care clinics have worked wonders in terms of bridging the broad gap in American healthcare between hospital emergency rooms and primary care physician offices, it has also created confusion as to when is the appropriate time to seek urgent care. While it’s true that urgent care services are far more affordable than a typical emergency room visit, they are by no means a replacement for emergency medical care.

Emergency and urgent care are similar in that they both focus on treating acutely occurring medical ailments, conditions, illnesses and injuries. The difference lies in the level or intensity of care provided as well as with the severity of the condition. For example, both emergency rooms and urgent care centers are equipped to treat a bad case of the stomach flu. As for a heart attack, this is best treated at an emergency room as soon as symptoms develop.

While it’s true that urgent care services have grown to encompass a wide variety of medical care, it’s important to not to write off the emergency room just yet. As a rule of them, emergency room physicians agree that it is best to listen to your gut and err on the side of caution. It’s much easier to be stuck with a high emergency room bill as opposed to a long recovery from an illness or injury that should have received the proper medical care sooner than later.

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