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Do I Need an Emergency Room or an Urgent Care Clinic?

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HOW MUCH DO you know about the difference between urgent care and emergency medicine? Knowing when to use one over the other could be a major benefit for your future healthcare needs. It could get you faster and much more affordable help.

What Is Urgent Care?

Urgent care like what we offer at our clinic should be used as a convenient option when you can’t wait for a scheduled appointment or illness or injury strikes outside of regular office hours. It’s also an alternative to what could be hours of waiting at the back of triage in a hospital emergency room. However, urgent care cannot provide definitive care of critically ill patients and are not equipped for long-term patient observation.

Urgent care providers like Dr. Patel and our team of nurse practitioners are on the front lines of medicine, and they need to be proficient in evaluating and caring for any patient who walks into their clinic. That means there is some overlap between the scope of practice in urgent care medicine and many other medical specialties involving direct patient care. Situations that merit an urgent care visit include:

  • Sprains or strains of an arm or leg
  • Broken bones where there isn’t an obvious deformity
  • Headaches that are different from typical headaches for the patient
  • Low-grade fevers, sore throat, cough, or flu
  • Minor burns
  • Cuts that may require a few stitches
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Vomiting or diarrhea that isn’t going away
  • Most types of low back pain

What Is the Emergency Room?

Emergency rooms are for life and limb-saving medical care when getting treatment quickly is essential. Even for patients with medical insurance, emergency room treatment can be incredibly expensive, so make sure it’s really necessary and that the problem at hand couldn’t be dealt with better in urgent care or even a regular doctor visit. Situations that are dire enough for an emergency room visit include:

  • Traumatic injuries from a fall or a car accident
  • A complex fracture with a bone protruding through the skin
  • Sudden or severe headaches
  • Difficulty breathing or chest pain
  • A significant head injury
  • Suspected stroke or heart attack
  • Drug or alcohol issues, such as overdose
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Seizures

Urgent Care or Emergency Room?

A clinic like ours is not the same thing as an emergency room. Patients with medical problems on the high end of the severity spectrum should go to the emergency room for life-saving treatment, but patients on the low end may get treated quicker through urgent care, with the added benefit that you may already be one of Dr. Patel’s patients. You can learn more about our clinic by checking our business page, and make sure to get directions before heading to our location in Streamwood.

Thank you for being part of our practice family!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

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