Emergency Care versus

Can urgent care turn away patients?


Emergency Care versus Urgent Care: Understanding the Difference

  • Emergency Care

Emergency room patients typically receive one of five levels of care. The first level is for minor problems like an earache. The second level may cater to something small, like a cut that requires stitching. Level five is for severe problems like broken bones, etc.

Additionally, emergency care caters to patients whose lives are potentially in danger, such as people experiencing heart attacks or strokes, road traffic accident victims, etc.

Note: Nearly 43% of all hospital admissions originate in an emergency room. The CDC notes that approximately 145 million Americans paid a visit to one of nearly 5000 emergency rooms across the country in 2016.

The primary reason why most people visit ERs for non-urgent care is that ERs are required to cater to all patients by law, regardless of whether they can afford care or not. Since ERs cannot turn away patients, people who are unable to afford the expenses or do not have health insurance often resort to emergency room care.

  • Urgent Care

Urgent care is the bridge between primary physician care and emergency care.

Note: The concept of urgent care evolved during the 90s to cater to 73% of the American population who claimed to have no access to primary care doctors during the weekend, nights, etc.

Urgent care centers do not require appointments as they are open all week round until late. Their staff includes physicians, nurses, and paramedics.

Urgent care centers offer nearly all the services that are offered in any doctor’s office and emergency room. However, they do not have access to the patient’s medical history like a primary care clinic, nor do they have advanced medical equipment or staff found in a hospital’s ER required to help patients presenting with life-threatening conditions.

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Urgent care centers conduct lab testing and x-rays as well. Most of their procedures are covered by insurance.

ER or Urgent Care: Where to seek treatment?

The topic of receiving treatment in a hospital ER versus an urgent care center has been subject to significant debate. There are many sides to the discussion that should be considered.

The general consensus, however, agrees that for minor non-life-threatening conditions such as fever, flu, minor cuts, allergic reactions, etcetera, urgent care centers, such as Texoma Urgent Care, is the better choice considering time, cost, and importance.

For extreme and potentially life-threatening conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, severe burns, electrical shocks, etcetera, a hospital ER is the favorable choice primarily because of the services and resources available.

Turning Away Patients: Urgent Care Woes

A question often asked by patients is concerning being turned away by patient care.

Urgent care clinics cater to patients who present with an injury or illness that requires stabilization. The patient is expected to follow up with their doctor or with a hospital at a later time.

Patients have often turned away from urgent care centers for any of the following reasons.

  • If a patient presents with a possibly life-threatening issue, the requirements for which cannot be fulfilled by the care center in terms of resources, equipment, etcetera, in such instances, patients are referred to the ER.
  • In many cases, patients often seek an initial assessment at the urgent care center but are turned away. Such cases typically involve cases of injury that are not emergent and thus can be postponed.
  • Additionally, the doctors in urgent care centers work on a shift basis, unlike emergency care, where doctors are available round the clock in different shifts. Patients have sometimes turned away from urgent care simply due to the unavailability of the doctor in charge.
  • Another overlooked aspect in this regard is related to finances. People often report being turned away by urgent care centers because they claim not to have the funds for it. However, legally, any legal, medical provider is given the right to refuse treatment to a patient, unless it is an emergency.

Hospital ERs are obliged to screen and treat any patient that comes to them regardless of their financial status or affordability. On the other hand, Urgent care centers, are not obliged to do the same and hence can refuse to attend to patients based on money. Some might even demand payment upfront.

While this may sound cruel, it is also a necessary measure, and many people tend to seek medical care and then not pay for it, which has contributed to significant losses.

  • Parting Thoughts

Health is a fundamental human right. When it comes to seeking medical help, it is essential to evaluate where you must head, depending on your needs.

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The primary goal of urgent care is to facilitate patients. While the masses often misunderstand the term “urgent care,” it is essential to realize that healthcare is not free and thus must not be exploited or taken for granted.

Your health should be your priority. Seek professional care whenever you feel it is necessary.

Also Read: Should you go to the eye doctor if you have perfect vision?


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