left-arrow right-arrow Twitter Twitter Facebook Facebook Google Plus LinkedIn YouTube Email

Should I Go to the Emergency Room or Urgent Care?

Today's Medicine

Your physician is unavailable

It is 7 o’clock on a Thursday night and you are not feeling well. If your doctor's office is not open where do you go? In the past, the emergency room was the logical choice. I now tell my patients that an Urgent Care Clinic can often be the answer to their after-hours needs.

Common illnesses mean Urgent Care

An Urgent Care clinic is perfect for common ailments such as colds, flu, and strains. One study found that almost half of the ER patients who were not admitted to the hospital had only visited the ER because their primary care physician’s office was closed. These patients would have found an Urgent Care Clinic to be a better choice. Urgent Care is often the less expensive when it comes to out-of-pocket costs. It is always a good idea to choose an Urgent Care that is in your health insurance network to lower costs even more.

Life-threating ailments mean Emergency Room

The Emergency Room is for life-threatening episodes. Reasons to go to the Emergency Room include any sign of a stroke, high fever, severe bleeding or pain. Another thing to consider is your wait time. Emergency Rooms often see patients in order of the severity of the illness so you may find your wait to be longer. An Urgent Care often sees patients on a first come first served basis.

When to call 911

Call 911 if you find yourself in a life-threatening situation. Driving to the Emergency Room could lose valuable time needed for treatment. Paramedics are able to assess a situation and begin care immediately.

A guide to common problems

Use the infographic below to help make your choice.  Click on the graphic to see a full-sized version.

Remember, if you are in doubt, trust your instinct. Anyone with a severe illness or injury should go the Emergency Room.



























Methodist Physicians Clinic offers 5 Urgent Care locations and convenient hours. No appointment is necessary. We do recommend calling ahead to ensure timely service.  

John Franklin

About the Author:

Dr. John Franklin is a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Methodist Physicians Clinic Indian Hills. He is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians. He is active in Boy Scouts as a Scoutmaster and Girl Scouts as a parent volunteer.

See More Articles by John Franklin