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Published on May 31, 2017

Choosing Between the Emergency Room and Urgent Care

Emergency Room or Urgent CareWhen unexpected illnesses or injuries occur, it is sometimes difficult to decide whether the condition needs treatment at an emergency department or an urgent care facility. For the following life-threatening situations, it's important to call 911 immediately:

  • severe chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • sudden facial dropping
  • weakness in arm or leg
  • seizures
  • traumatic injury from a severe fall or vehicle accident

The emergency medical services (EMS) team that arrives can assess and stabilize the patient and take them to the emergency department quickly if necessary.

Urgent care facilities are very useful for individuals who have an illness, injury or other healthcare concern that would otherwise normally be seen by their primary care physician, but are unable to get an immediate appointment. Examples of reasons to choose an urgent care facility could include:

  • fever
  • sore throat
  • flu
  • burns
  • cuts
  • rashes
  • sprains

The length of your visit depends on your condition, tests needed and the number of patients with critical injuries or illnesses. On average, trips to the emergency department take time. At Cone Health, our emergency departments do their best to treat all patients in a timely manner, but we have to consider the severity of each case and treat patients in order of need. That means that sometimes, someone with a more urgent injury or illness may go to a treatment area before you.

About Our Expert

Stacey Toben is the director of the Cone Health MedCenter High Point Emergency Department.

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