Doctor’s Office vs. Urgent Care vs. Emergency Rooms

Houston Family Physicians

When you’re sick, injured, or simply not feeling well — you’re more concerned about feeling better right away than trying to figure out where to go. There are a few key things to consider when you go, though. What is your injury? How are you feeling? What time of day is it? How much will it cost?

If you have a broken bone or something else similarly serious, the best thing to do is go to the emergency room. The doctor’s office would likely send you there, and urgent care rooms might not have either the tools to help or the ability to triage. Emergency rooms help the sickest people first, and if it’s a life-threatening or grievous injury, there’s really no need to consider where to go. However, if you’re feeling ill (i.e. like you may have the flu) then the emergency room probably isn’t where you need to go. You can go to either urgent care, or make an appointment with your doctor’s office.

It may seem a bit silly, but it’s important to consider the time of day if it isn’t life-threatening. For example, if you think you have the flu and you’re throwing up — but it’s the evening, your doctor’s office won’t be open. You’d have to stick out the night and hope that you can get an appointment first thing in the morning. This is a good case of when you can go to urgent care, because many urgent care places have extended hours, and you would be able to get looked at right away.

It’s a sad fact of life that sometimes medical services are costly. When you’re sick or injured, it should be the last thing on your mind, but for some people, especially without insurance, getting medical relief seems out of reach. Urgent care services are very helpful for people without insurance, because they can be seen anytime — there isn’t a network to worry about, and many of them will work out a payment plan with you.

Overall, if the issue is life-threatening, go to the emergency room. However, if it’s non-life threatening, and you want it to be addressed right away, then go to an urgent care center over waiting to get into your doctor’s office.