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Emergency Room vs. Urgent Care: What's the Difference?

By LEENA KAMAT, MD

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The difference between an urgent care clinic versus an emergency room (ER) is the level of care and treatment each facility is capable of providing. For life-threatening injuries or severe illness, an emergency room is the best option for immediate care. If a patient's symptoms need to be treated quickly but are not life-threatening, then an urgent care clinic is the most efficient and least expensive option.

Most urgent care clinics are open seven days of the week with extended hours. Urgent care medical professionals are equipped to respond quickly to a variety of non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries, such as: allergies, asthma, back pain, headaches, infections, sprains, minor burns, etc.

Emergency rooms are the best option for life-threatening events that may require advanced treatment such as surgery. These facilities are open 7 days a week and 24 hours a day with access to a range of medical professionals/specialists. The high level of care typically increases the cost of an emergency room visit. A few medical problems that may require ER attention include: chest pain, ingestion of poisons, traumas, severe burns, shock, uncontrolled bleeding, difficulty breathing, etc.

Emergency rooms function by treating patients with the most serious and demanding conditions first and leaving those with less severe problems to wait. Approximately, 12.5 percent of ER patients are served within 1 hour or less while urgent care clinics usually treat 88.6 percent of their patients within 1 hour. Lastly, urgent care centers are typically cheaper than a visit to the ER, approximately seven times cheaper!

Urgent care clinics and ERs do share the potential need for imaging for their patients; urgent cares may offer X-rays while hospital ERs offer all modalities include X-ray, CT, MRI and ultrasound.

Radiology Specialists of Florida is a specialized group of radiologists comprised of over 100 physicians and nearly ten different subspecialties within the practice of radiology who are committed to provide not only the most advanced imaging services, but also the highest quality customer service to both patients and their caregivers, as well as referring physicians.

All physicians at Radiology Specialists of Florida are board-certified in diagnostic radiology and dedicated to providing high-quality and compassionate emergency imaging services to all referring physicians and patients at Florida Hospital and Florida Radiology Imaging (FRi) locations. Because of their extensive experience and training in emergency imaging, they provide outstanding interpretation to our patients, supporting their diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

Leena Kamat, MD, is a board certified diagnostic radiologist, sub-specialized in breast imaging for Radiology Specialists of Florida at Florida Hospital. She earned her medical degree at the University of Florida, College of Medicine and following graduation completed her residency at the University of South Florida and a fellowship in breast imaging at the Moffitt Cancer Center.



 
 
 
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