How to Tell the Difference Between an Emergency Situation vs. Urgent Care Needs

Sometimes it can be tough to tell whether you need an emergency room or urgent care clinic services. According to a private Milliman study, anywhere from 44-65% of emergency room visits could have been treated in urgent care settings.

But what signifies an emergency and what is appropriate to bring to urgent care? Keep reading to find out how to tell the difference between an emergency situation and an urgent medical situation.

What counts as an emergency?
Urgent care, while an important facet of medical care, is no substitute for emergency services. In the vast majority of cases, an emergency is any situation that can permanently endanger someone's life. The following are classified as emergency situations:

  • Severe chest pain
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Deep cuts or gunshot wounds
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Poisoning
  • Compound fractures

The list goes on, but these are some of the most common emergency situations.

What counts as an urgent medical situation?
While urgent medical situations aren't incidents where someone's life is in danger, they include those situations that require care within 24 hours of the original incident. In addition, urgent care often sees patients who simply can't make it to their primary physician's office on time. Illness and injury aren't things that strike at convenient times. Here are a few of the most commonly treated urgent medical situations:

  • Sprains and strains
  • Skin rashes and irritation
  • Irritated or itchy eyes
  • Vomiting or dehydration
  • Minor fractures (fingers and toes)