Emergency Room directional sign in front of hospital

Freestanding ERs vs. Hospital ERs

If an emergency happens, where will you go? You may have multiple options in your area, but not all emergency rooms are the same. Making the decision between a freestanding or a hospital ER will affect your out-of-pocket costs, wait times, and access to trauma care. Be proactive and learn about the different types of ERs now so you can make an informed decision during an emergency.

What’s the Difference Between Freestanding ERs and Hospital ERs?

A hospital ER is physically connected to a hospital, whereas a freestanding ER is not. This allows hospital ERs to provide trauma care for the most serious conditions. However, hospital ERs may only be located in specific areas in a city and tend to be more crowded than freestanding ERs. Freestanding emergency rooms can be located in more accessible areas and generally have less wait time than hospital ERs.

Though both freestanding and hospital ERs provide high-quality care and can treat the same kinds of emergency conditions, there are a few crucial differences:

  Freestanding ERs Hospital ERs
Open Hours 24 hours, 7 days a week 24 hours, 7 days a week
Wait Time Generally shorter than hospital ERs 2.5 to 3 hours on average
Cost Less than hospital ERs Highest out-of-pocket costs
Level of Care Does not include trauma care; could transfer you to a hospital ER based on medical situation Includes trauma care and taking care of the most serious conditions

Deciding Where to Go

Familiarize yourself with the options in your area and check with your health insurance provider to learn more about your coverage. Visit PlanForIt.org to create an emergency plan for you and your family.

St. Luke’s Health Emergency Services offer hospital emergency departments and hospital-based freestanding ERs, meaning they offer seamless hospital admission should another level of care be needed.


Study shows parallels among emergency care options
Freestanding ER Guide
Press Ganey Pulse Report

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