Emergency room VS Urgent care: Which one should you use according to your needs?

When you or a member of your family are harmed or exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or other illnesses, you want to decide swiftly on the type of medical care to seek.

However, rushing to the emergency department may not be the best course of action.

Urgent care clinics, such as OSF PromptCare and OSF OnCall Urgent Care, which include virtual visits and walk-in clinics, may be a preferable option for care. If you’re having COVID-19 symptoms and need testing, these treatment options are most appropriate.

OSF also provides instantaneous connections via Clare, our digital assistant accessible at Clare can direct you to the appropriate level of care you require.

Emergency room or urgent care?

Brandi Clark, vice president of On Demand Services at OSF HealthCare, said, “If you suspect you have a life-threatening injury or sickness, dial 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.” If you do not believe that your condition is life-threatening, then one of our urgent care choices may be more appropriate. The emergency department triages patients according to the severity of their disease or injury and should not be used for non-life-threatening conditions. The emergency department should only be used in the most dire circumstances.”

According to Megan Brennan, director of Hospitalist, Emergency and Diagnostic Medicine at OSF HealthCare, individuals should use their best judgment.

Consider visiting an urgent care center if you are suffering mild or persistent symptoms. “Go to the emergency department if it’s something that could be life or limb threatening,” she said. “You should go to the emergency hospital if you are having chest discomfort, shortness of breath, and weakness, especially if they are severe, and if you have a complicated medical history.”

You have options!

Brandi says that OSF HealthCare has developed care options, such as OSF PromptCare and OSF OnCall Urgent Care walk-in clinics and virtual visits, to better suit the requirements of individuals in the present day.

“OSF has expanded its on-demand service options and locations in response to changes in patient preferences,” she explained. “These are low-cost choices for serving individuals with minor care needs.

“We are aware that the desires and requirements of patients about health care are evolving. She stated that the establishment of our new urgent care model, OSF OnCall Urgent Care, was a response to the ever-changing health care environment. “Providing options demonstrates OSF HealthCare’s dedication to meeting clients wherever they are in their health care journey.”

What are the benefits of urgent care?

Brandi gives various reasons why immediate care is preferable for non-life-threatening conditions.

“First, the patient’s out-of-pocket expenses are significantly reduced,” she stated. “Secondly, you should anticipate much lower wait times. It is not uncommon for patients with non-emergency issues to experience a wait in an Emergency Department because care teams are addressing the life-threatening needs of other emergency patients, whereas they can expect to complete an urgent care visit at, for example, an OSF OnCall Urgent Care within approximately 30 minutes.”

Megan concurs that pricing and wait times are important advantages of visiting an urgent care center.

In addition, she stated that obtaining care outside of the Emergency Department reduces a patient’s exposure to other sick individuals, and that urgent care clinics offer more convenient locations.

Getting treatment

The Emergency Department is the best place for treating severe and life-threatening conditions such as:

  • Chest pain (especially if it radiates to your arm or jaw or is accompanied by sweating, vomiting or shortness of breath)
  • Blurred vision, sudden dizziness, weakness or loss of coordination or balance, sudden severe headache
  • Broken bones or dislocated joints
  • Head or eye injuries
  • High fever with rash (or fever in a newborn)
  • Seizures
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Uncontrolled bleeding

Urgent care clinics – such as OSF PromptCare and OSF OnCall Urgent Care – offer extended hours for walk-in visits and virtual visits. They can be used if your condition isn’t life-threatening but needs to be taken care of right away. Conditions that can be treated include:

  • Allergies
  • COVID-19 symptoms requiring testing
  • Cold or flu symptoms
  • Earaches
  • Fevers
  • Foreign object in eye or nose
  • Headaches
  • Insect bites
  • Minor allergic reactions
  • Minor burns or bruises
  • Minor fractures
  • Rash or poison ivy
  • Scrapes or minor cuts
  • Skin complaints
  • Sore throats
  • Sprains or breaks
  • Suturing
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Upper respiratory infections

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