Health Beat with Dr. Alicia Arnold: Urgent Care vs. Emergency Rooms

CE: Sometimes it can be a challenge to navigate the healthcare landscape. There are a lot of options and what you choose can make a big difference especially in your pocketbook. Dr. Alicia Arnold is here to help with that.

What are the differences between urgent care and the emergency room..

Dr. Arnold: "Emergency Departments are equipped to handle severe and life threatening emergencies 24 hours a day. 7 days a week. Urgent Care Centers are designed to handle more minor or non life threatening but still need to be taken care of right away."

COURTNEY: "There's a big difference between injuries and things like that, what can you’d describe about this picture right here."

Dr. Arnold: "Urgent Care Settings are for more minor injuries, things like sore throats, ear aches, and minor cuts. The emergency department is where you're going to want to go for more severe problems, things like seizures, loss of consciousness, severe pain, heavy bleeding and an important point to mention is if you are truly having a medical emergency, something like shortness of breath , the first step is to call 9-1-1.

CE: How do you know when to call your primary care doctor... and when to go to urgent care?

Dr. Arnold "Urgent Care should be able to handle most minor medical problems. There may be advantages to seeing your primary care physician of the situation allows.
Now we know that primary care offices aren't always open when you need care so that may be a good time to go to the urgent care. But if you do see your primary care doctor, he or she may have a slight advantage because he or she knows your medical history and knows you personally better.

CE: Is there a time difference?

Dr. Arnold: "There may be. For emergency departments, it operates on the concept of triage which means the most sick, most urgently ill patients are seen first.
So if you're less sick even if you've been waiting longer, if someone comes in whose more severely ill, they may be seen first.
This is why for certain situations for minor illnesses, urgent care might be a better option."

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