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What is urgent care vs. convenient care vs. emergency care?


February 15, 2022 Posted in: Blogs , English , Infographics

With all of the different types of care available in Greater Houston and the surrounding areas, it can be challenging to understand which to use. If you or your child has a mild fever, you wouldn’t want to wait for a long time at the emergency room when you could’ve gone to a convenient care clinic for a fraction of the cost. It’s essential to educate yourself about various medical situations to receive the best care you need, whether at a convenient care clinic, urgent care site, or emergency care center. 

What is convenient care?

The terms convenient care and express care often go hand in hand as they offer the same services at the same hours and around the same price. You get walk-in availability with access to nurse practitioners and physician assistants to help with wellness and services for non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries. If you’re unable to visit your primary care physician, a convenient care center is an exceptional alternative. These clinics also extend their hours during weekdays and are even open on weekends to accommodate particular needs. Physicians at these locations determine wait times on a first-come, first-serve basis, and costs and co-pays are lower than urgent or emergency care.

When to go to convenient care

If you or someone around you is experiencing a mild illness or minor injuries, a convenient care clinic will be able to treat you. Examples include sore throat, minor aches, flu, rashes, sprains, and minor cuts or burns.  

What's the difference between urgent care and the emergency room?

Urgent care has similar hours to convenient care, while emergency rooms are open 24/7. The cost for urgent care falls between convenient and emergency care, while visits to the E.R. can quickly become costly. Both of these services offer X-rays and other imaging diagnostic tools.

Emergency rooms base their wait times on the most life-threatening situations that come through the door, so you could wind up waiting longer at an emergency room than an urgent care clinic. However, the big difference between emergency and urgent care is the severity of the medical problems they treat.

When to go to the emergency room

Trauma injuries—motor accidents and gunshot wounds—are the first to be treated when taken to an E.R. Other life-threatening medical situations include:

If you or someone around you is experiencing any of these, you should call 911 to go to an E.R. right away.

When to go to urgent care

Similar to express care, urgent care handles non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries. However, visit an urgent care clinic if the problem needs to be taken care of in under 24 hours—like a minor broken bone or cuts requiring stitches. Other conditions treated at urgent care sites include COVID-19, flu and cold symptoms, infections and rashes, painful urination, moderate back problems, muscle strains, and vomiting.

It’s important to know the differences between convenient, urgent, and emergency care to save yourself valuable time and money in a medical situation. Education is key to understanding which care locations to go to. Talk to a Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group primary care physician about setting up a plan for common medical emergencies. You can also save our E.R. check-in function to get on the waiting list for the E.R. before you arrive.

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