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Having a medical emergency can be a scary experience. You may not know what to do or where to go for care. Urgent care centers can be a good option for medical emergencies that are not life-threatening.

However, there is also the ER at hospitals and walk-in clinics, and it can be confusing to delineate each one’s capabilities. In this article, we will go over the differences between each kind of healthcare service to help you make an informed decision should the need arise.

What’s the difference between ER, urgent care, and walk-in clinic?

An emergency room (ER) is a part of a hospital that is open 24 hours a day and provides care for patients with serious, life-threatening conditions. Some examples of conditions they tend to are heart attacks, strokes, and severe injuries.

Urgent care centers are also open 24 hours a day, but they provide care for patients with non-life-threatening conditions that are too complicated to tend to at your own home.

Urgent care centers are usually equipped with a team of professional staff, physicians, and medical equipment to handle conditions like lacerations, fractures, burns, and concussions.

Walk-in clinics are usually open during regular business hours and provide care for patients with non-life-threatening conditions that can be treated without the need for hospitalization. These clinics are often found inside pharmacies or grocery stores.

Treatment at a walk-in clinic is usually much less expensive than treatment at an urgent care center or ER.

What is considered an emergency?

Doctors and emergency care professionals use a triage system to assess and prioritize patients in the ER. This system is designed to ensure that patients with the most serious, life-threatening conditions are seen first.

The triage system uses a five-level scale, with Level 1 being the most urgent and Level 5 being the least urgent. Urgent care centers also use a triage system, but it is not as formalized as the one in the ER.

Some common conditions that are considered medical emergencies and should be treated in the ER are:

  • Chest pain or difficulty breathing
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Sudden paralysis or weakness
  • Stroke or cardiac arrest symptoms
  • Loss of consciousness with no pulse or breathing
  • Trauma or serious injury, such as a head injury
  • Nausea, vomiting, and dehydration especially for infants and children
  • Severe burns
  • Poisoning
  • Overdoses
  • Pregnancy complications

What is considered an urgent care condition?

Some common conditions that are considered urgent, but not necessarily a medical emergency, and can be treated at an urgent care center are:

  • Mild to moderate abdominal pain
  • Fever without a rash
  • Non-severe allergic reactions
  • Dehydration
  • Cuts or lacerations that may require stitches
  • Minor burns
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Possible broken bones or fractures
  • Moderate back pain or muscle aches and pains
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Respiratory infections, such as sinusitis or bronchitis
  • Mild to moderate asthma attacks
  • Headaches or migraines

When should you go to a walk-in clinic?

Conditions that can be treated at a walk-in clinic are the following. Please note that some conditions can be both treated at an urgent care center or a walk-in clinic:

  • Colds, coughs, and sore throats
  • Flu symptoms
  • Ear pain or infections
  • Minor fevers
  • Pinkeye
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs) in women
  • Vaccinations
  • Rashes or skin infections
  • Sprains and strains
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

How to Prepare for a Medical Visit

Emergency Room

There is typically no preparation needed before going to an ER, but it’s recommended to have a list of your allergies, medications, and medical conditions on hand in case you are unable to communicate when you arrive.

Urgent Care

An appointment at an urgent care is usually not needed, but it is encouraged to call ahead to see if the center is able to treat your specific condition.

To save time at your urgent care visit, it’s recommended that you write down your symptoms, questions for the doctor, and important personal information like allergies and medications. You should also bring your insurance card and a photo ID.

Walk-in Clinic

No appointment is needed for most walk-in clinics, but you may want to call ahead to see if the center is experiencing a high volume of patients.

The same preparations as with an urgent care visit are recommended for a walk-in clinic visit.

Current Trends in Self-Pay

There are a number of trends affecting self-pay healthcare, including the rise of high-deductible health plans and the increasing cost of medical care.

As deductibles continue to rise, more patients are responsible for a larger portion of their own healthcare costs. This is resulting in an increase in the number of self-pay patients.

In addition, the cost of medical care is rising faster than inflation. This means that more patients are unable to pay their medical bills in full. As a result, self-pay is becoming an increasingly popular option for those who need healthcare services but cannot afford the high costs.

Before you decide to self-pay for your healthcare, be sure to compare prices and understand the risks involved. Self-pay can be a good option for some patients, but it’s not right for everyone.

Quality Care at City Doc

City Doc is an urgent care provider that is committed to delivering high-quality medical care. We have a team of experienced, knowledgeable, and certified healthcare providers who use the latest technology to diagnose and treat our patients.

We offer a wide range of services, including allergy testing, antibody testing, sports physicals, DOT physicals, COVID-19 testing and vaccination, occupational therapy, and much more.

Our commitment is to provide our patients with the best possible care and a great experience. So if you or any of your family members are sick, City Doc Urgent Care is here to help.

We serve 4 locations across Texas, so there’s sure to be a City Doc near you. We have 3 urgent care centers in Dallas and 1 in Fort Worth TX.

For your convenience, we also offer a virtual visit option and online check-in. To book an appointment online, visit our website and choose your preferred location. Fill out the online form and choose a time that works for you. One of our staff members will confirm your appointment via email or text message.

To learn more about how City Doc can help you with your urgent care needs, visit any of our locations in Uptown, Inwood Village, or Preston/Royal in Texas, or our clinic at Fort Worth. You can also contact us through our website today!

FAQ

Who uses urgent care the most?

Patients or their family members of all ages can use urgent care when they have a non-life-threatening medical problem and their primary care provider is unavailable.

What is the best time of day to go to urgent care?

The best time to visit urgent care is usually during the middle of the week or weekday hours when primary care offices are closed. Urgent care centers are typically open from 8 am to 8 pm on weekdays and from 9 am to 5 pm on weekends.

Can you get virtual care for urgent care conditions?

Yes, you can receive virtual care for some urgent care conditions. City Doc Urgent Care offers a virtual visit option where you can consult with a provider from the comfort of your own home. We also offer online check-in for your convenience.

Is urgent care covered by my insurance?

Yes, most insurance plans cover urgent care visits. However, it’s recommended that you check with your insurance provider to confirm coverage.

What is Code Red in the hospital?

Code Red is an emergency announcement used in hospitals to alert staff of a critical situation, such as a fire, medical emergency, or Code Blue (cardiac or respiratory arrest).