Unless you are one of the lucky few individuals who have never had any medical issues, complications or emergencies in their lifetime, you have likely at one point or another been sick or injured enough to seek out immediate medical care.  However, visits to the emergency room, if engaged without the proper context, can be costly for both you and insurance providers in the long run.  There are numerous individuals who feel that they should visit the emergency room, only to show up and eventually be turned away when it is discovered that their condition or illness doesn’t require emergency care. Emergency visits for a condition that are not an emergency can greatly exceed the cost of treating that same condition at an urgent care center.

So what can you do when you are unsure of which of the two options to choose? Let’s first take a look at what urgent care actually is: urgent care centers or services are geared towards helping individuals when they have received an injury or come down with an illness.  The difference is that the injury or illness is not severe enough to warrant a visit to the emergency room, but it also generally can’t wait to be treated until the following day. It is a great in-between option when faced with choices between going to your primary doctor and running to the emergency room.

In addition, urgent care centers usually offer convenient hours compared to primary care facilities, which often have limited hours and days in terms of availability. The level of service provided when it comes to urgent care is usually second to none, so you know that you will be receiving excellent quality healthcare.

So now that we know what an urgent care facility provides, as well as the types of issues and injuries it can address, we can begin to break down the reasons to go to one.  Here’s a list of symptoms, injuries and medical problems that would benefit you utilizing urgent care services over a visit to the emergency room:

  • Having an accident of any sort that results in a fall and subsequent pain
  • Straining a muscle, tendon or ligament
  • Spraining a wrist, ankle or other joint
  • Mild or moderate breathing difficulties, such as asthmatic conditions
  • Cuts on the skin that will likely require stitches; bleeding is average and not a heavy flow
  • Eye irritation or pain, often redness
  • A severe sore throat, or a severe cough
  • Broken bones
  • Broken Bones (Fractures such as wrists, arms, ankles, shoulders, collarbones, hands, feet, fingers, and toes.)
  • Symptoms that include diarrhea, vomiting feeling very dehydrated
  • Other moderately severe symptoms that should be addressed within 24 hours

Let’s also take a quick look at the opposite end of the spectrum: emergency medical situations.  You should absolutely head to the emergency room if you experience these types of symptoms:

  • A sudden and severe headache
  • A feeling of dizziness that does not go away
  • Bleeding heavily, either from a wound, cut or internally
  • Severe broken bones, such as a leg, arm, rib, neck and especially any bone protruding through the skin
  • Experiencing seizures
  • Having been exposed or inhaled hazardous or dangerous fumes or material
  • Severe breathing problems
  • Severe pain throughout any part of the body
  • Anything that you may deem severe enough to require emergency services: but keep in mind the checklist for urgent care services

When you look at each checklist, it is easier to gauge which symptoms and medical conditions correspond to each type of medical services. So the next time you think that you may require a visit to the hospital and emergency room, take a look at this checklist and save yourself time and money by choosing urgent care if the pain or injury corresponds accordingly.