Why Understanding the Difference Between Emergency and Urgent Care is So Vital


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No one likes to be sick, especially when at an inconvenient time, such as late at night or on a weekend. When this happens, it can be difficult to find doctors who are open past the traditional or normal business hours of operation, which are typically between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. In these cases, especially if it’s not a true medical emergency, seeking treatment at an urgent care center is your best bet.

So, what is exactly is urgent care?

Ironically, urgent care centers were once regarded as “quack Doc in a box” clinics that delivered sub-par health care. This was nearly forty years ago, when the urgent care movement first began. Now, they’ve grown to become an integral part of the complex American health care system as they continue to fill the ever widening gap between hospital emergency departments and primary care physicians.

While urgent medical care services are not a replacement for emergency medical treatment provided at a hospital, they are similar in that they both are designed to treat acutely arising conditions. The difference is in the severity.

While emergency medical treatment is best reserved for life threatening or severe conditions such as heart attack, stroke, head injuries, and deep wounds that cause blood loss, urgent care clinics are best reserved for conditions that still require immediate medical attention but are not life threatening. Examples of this include urinary tract infections, the common cold or flu, stomach bugs, rashes, and minor burns and scrapes. You can find doctors who are highly experienced in treating these conditions and more staffing urgent care facilities across the country.

However, it’s imperative to understand the difference between a true medical emergency that which requires treatment at a hospital and a condition that can be treated at a local urgent care facility. Understanding the difference can be a matter of life and death, especially in the case of a medical emergency where time is of the essence.

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