Urgent Care vs Emergency Department: Know Where To Go

  • By Premier Family Medical
  • 08 Dec, 2016
Injuries or sickness can attack at any moment. When they occur, you may require medical services immediately. Whether to go to an Emergency Department (ED) or Urgent Care (UC) is not an easy decision. There are important differences between the two.

Whats The Difference?

For starters, urgent care clinics are present for when someone gets sick or injured and they cannot wait for an appointment with their usual healthcare provider. The cases are usually not that serious.  On the contrary, emergency departments are there to serve patients with life threatening diseases or injuries that need immediate attention. Emergency departments have equipment and staff for the most complicated medical procedures.   An urgent care clinic has more limited resources available to diagnose and treat your issues.

We often hear stories of patients visiting the emergency department for issues that can be taken care of at an urgent care clinic.  These patients will often pay 3 times as much for a visit to the emergency department.  We also hear stories of patients with critical health issues who visit an urgent care rather than heading directly to the emergency department.  

To help you know where to go in your time of need, here are a few things to consider when deciding if you should go to an ED or Urgent Care Clinic.

Time of Day

An emergency department will be fully operational during the day or night. They always have to be ready for anything.  An urgent care clinic is usually open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.. When looking for an urgent care be sure to check their hours before you leave.  

Premier Family Medical has four urgent care locations to meet your needs.
American Fork - Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. - Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. - closed Sunday
Lehi - Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. - Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. - closed Sunday
Lindon Clinic - Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. - closed Sunday
Pleasant Grove - Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. - closed Sunday

If medical care is needed after 9 p.m. please head directly to the emergency department.

Conditions You Would Go To An Emergency Department

Go to the emergency department if you have:
  • Brain or optical injuries
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Sudden difficulty speaking, or trouble understanding speech
  • Continuous chest pains (particularly radiating to your arm or jaw), or is followed by sweating, shortness of breath or vomiting 
  • Severe depression or suicidal thoughts
  • Deep cuts that need stitches — especially in the facial area — or a large open wound that won't stop bleeding
  • Sudden weakness or paralysis, especially on one side of the face or body
  • Severe heart pounding or racing
  • Severe pain, especially in the abdomen or starting midway down the back
  • Sudden and serious migraines
  • Sudden vision changes, including blurred or double vision and full or partial vision loss
  • Out of the blue testicular pain and swelling
  • Infant with a fever (a baby less than three months old with a temperature of 100 degrees or higher needs to be seen right away)
  • Hard falls that cause injury or occur while ingesting blood thinning medicine
  • Broken bones or dislocated joints
  • Deep tissue burns
  • Extremely high fevers accompanied by rash
  • Vaginal bleeding when pregnant
  • Severe and persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Severe flu or cold symptoms
  • Seizures without a previous diagnosis of epilepsy
  • Sudden clumsiness, loss of balance or passing out

When you call an ambulance, you are calling so that the person affected can go the emergency department and not the urgent care clinic.

Conditions You Would Go To An Urgent Care Clinic

Go to the urgent care if you have:
  • Fever without rash
  • Sore throat
  • Ear pain
  • Continuous diarrhea
  • Chronic Vomiting
  • Urinary tract irritation
  • Minor trauma, for example, a typical sprain
If you can get an appointment with your regular doctor, you should choose them over an urgent care clinic because they will know your medical history and will have a better chance of diagnosing your malady.  Urgent care clinics are very useful, but they should not replace a visit to your primary care provider.
If you are ever in doubt where you should seek immediate medical care, please visit an emergency department.

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