When Should I Go to Urgent Care Instead of the Hospital?

Unfortunately, you can’t predict when you’re going to get an injury or come down with an illness. And in many cases, your injury or illness may occur when your primary care doctor’s office is closed. 

While you know you need to see a doctor, you may not know whether you should go to urgent care or your local hospital. Our emergency room specialist, Michael Hamm, DO, at ERgent Med, has many years of experience in both settings and wants you to know when you should go to urgent care and when you should go to the hospital. 

The growth of urgent care facilities

Not too long ago, if you were faced with an unexpected injury or illness, your only option was to go to the emergency room (ER) at your local hospital. This usually meant long hours in the waiting room before being seen by a doctor. Given the general unpleasant nature of the ER, you may have opted to skip it altogether and take care of your injury or illness at home or wait until you could get an appointment with your primary care doctor. 

Seeing a need to help with the load faced by many ER physicians, a group of ER doctors opened an urgent care clinic sometime in the 1970s to take care of the less urgent medical issues clogging the ER waiting rooms. The goal was to get patients evaluated and treated quickly without the need for an appointment. Today, there are thousands of urgent care clinics, such as ERgent Med, so you don’t have to go to the ER. 

When you should go to urgent care

At ERgent Med, we handle all urgent medical matters that aren’t life-threatening. From stitches to sprains to colds, if you need medical care immediately and your life isn’t in danger, then you should go to urgent care.

Some of the most common conditions we see include:

Many urgent care clinics, such as ours, also handle unexpected injuries that occur at work. 

While your provider at the urgent care clinic is focused on your urgent medical issue, you can expect a comprehensive evaluation that takes into consideration all of your health needs, similar to what you would expect when you go to see your regular doctor. At ERgent Med, we aim to be as thorough as possible so there’s no need to make a follow-up appointment with your primary care physician.

When you should go to the hospital

If you or your loved one’s medical issue is life-threatening, then you need to go to the hospital. While urgent care clinics are stocked with equipment that can diagnose and treat injuries and illnesses, a hospital has everything you need to handle life-threatening situations.

Conditions that require care at a hospital include:

You should also go to the hospital if it’s after hours. Most urgent care clinics offer extended and flexible hours, but they may not be open 24 hours a day like your local hospital. 

If you or your loved one’s life is in immediate danger, call 911. 

Urgent care is a convenient alternative to your local ER when you’re dealing with a medical condition that isn’t life-threatening. If you need medical care now, call ERgent med.

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