Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room Treatment: Choosing the Right Level of Medical Services

A young medical practitioner uses a tongue depressor to peer into the open mouth of a school-age girlUrgent care clinics were developed in the 1980s to provide short-notice medical care that didn’t require booking an advance appointment at a traditional doctor’s office or waiting long hours to see an emergency room physician. Today, urgent care centers have become a mainstay in the health care industry, with more than 10,000 urgent care locations across the U.S. When it comes to offering convenient, affordable health care for non-life-threatening health conditions, urgent care clinics have found their niche. Yet many patients still find it difficult to determine when they should seek treatment at an urgent care center and when they should head to the ER.

Springfield Urgent Care, which provides walk-in urgent care services to residents and tourists in many southeast Michigan communities, is pleased to offer some guidelines that can help make this decision easier.

When to Go to the ER

Life-threatening illnesses and injuries can happen at any hour, so emergency departments are open 24/7. A hospital emergency room is also staffed and equipped to provide surgery and other high-level treatment that an urgent care clinic is not. People who have gunshot wounds, severe burns, or uncontrolled bleeding from a car accident are all best treated at an emergency department.

Few people would question whether to seek ER treatment for injuries like the ones above, but there are other symptoms that may be less clear cut. For example, it’s best to head to the ER or call 911 if you or a loved one has:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Slurred speech and confusion
  • Weakness or numbness on one side
  • Head trauma that could have caused a concussion
  • Deep cuts or facial lacerations that may require stitches
  • Fever with a rash
  • Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy

If a heart attack or stroke is suspected, you should call 911 because paramedics can use life-saving equipment in the ambulance on the way to the ER.

When to Visit an Urgent Care Clinic

A rule of thumb is to seek medical treatment at an urgent care clinic if you’d be comfortable consulting your family doctor about your concerns if you could get an appointment. There are far too many common health conditions that fall under this umbrella to list them all, but here are some that are appropriate for urgent care treatment:

  • Moderate flu-like symptoms
  • Sore throats
  • Fever without a rash
  • Fever that doesn’t subside after a few days
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Sprains, strains, and minor fractures
  • Ear and eye infections
  • Skin rashes
  • Insect and tick bites

Some walk-in clinics, including Springfield Urgent Care, are equipped to offer same-day lab testing and digital X-ray services that can play a huge role in providing patients with accurate diagnoses and effective treatment plans. When an urgent care center delivers these services in house, patients receive the optimal level of convenience—one that many traditional doctor’s offices don’t offer.

If you’re experiencing a non-life-threatening illness or injury in the southeastern Michigan area, Springfield Urgent Care may be the perfect place to turn for medical treatment without an appointment. We treat patients of all ages, from infants to seniors, and we’re open during extended hours at all five of our urgent care locations:

  • Clarkston
  • Highland
  • Hamburg
  • White Lake
  • Saline

We also accept many health insurance plans. Contact us today for more information.

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