ER vs. Urgent Care

Imagine these scenarios:

  • Your child falls on the playground, breaking their arm
  • Your spouse or partner has a bad case of the flu
  • A neighbor’s dog bites you

In all these cases, someone requires care. But just how serious is the situation? What kind of treatment is needed? Should you go to the emergency room for immediate care?

These are questions that many people ask themselves in the face of various medical problems. In these situations, many people choose the ER. In fact, Americans make around 136 million visits to ERs per year.

ERs are required by federal law to treat all patients, regardless of their ability to pay. Because of this, people without insurance or who are unable to pay for medical treatments often choose the ER for non-urgent conditions, since they are guaranteed treatment. Other times, people may choose to rush to the ER because they are not sure if a situation is serious, and do not want to risk a delay in treatment. Both of these situations are understandable.

The Urgent Care Option

However, everyone should know that there are other options. Urgent care centers are the most common alternative to ERs. Urgent care centers are staffed by family care and emergency room physicians. They can provide most of the care that an ER would provide, including x-rays, minor stitches, and lab testing. Urgent care centers are typically open seven days a week. They stay open past 9 at night, in case an accident or illness occurs after normal office hours.

For people with insurance, urgent care centers are usually the cheaper option for non-urgent conditions. A visit to an urgent care center typically costs around $100, depending on the person’s insurance and what they are being treated for. Going to the ER is generally much more expensive. For example, getting treatment for a urinary tract infection might cost $665 at an ER, while the same treatment would cost around $112 at an urgent care center.

Consider the Situation

Despite the lower cost of urgent care centers, there are still situations that call for a visit to the ER. They include

    • Severe chest pain
    • Severe abdominal pain
    • Wheezing or shortness of breath
    • Paralysis
    • Intestinal bleeding
    • High fevers or rash, especially among children
    • Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy
    • Repeated vomiting
    • Poisoning
    • Severe head or eye injuries
    • Allergic reactions
    • Unconsciousness

Conditions like ear infections, fevers and colds, UTIs, minor abdominal pain, and moderate asthma, however, are generally non-emergency, and can be treated at an urgent care center. In all the above scenarios (broken bones, flu, dog bite) the proper treatment could be provided at an urgent care center.

When there is a medical problem, it’s up to you to decide how to seek treatment! If someone needs care, try not to let worries about money or convenience get in the way of seeking treatment. But remember, there are plenty of options for non-emergency situations!


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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