When to get a regular appointment, urgent care, or emergency room

Did you know there are nearly 10,000 urgent care centers in the United States? That’s a big jump since 2013 when there were only about 6,000 centers spread across all 50 states. Offering enhanced convenience and faster care compared to emergency rooms and even traditional doctor’s offices, urgent care clinics certainly fill a niche. 

But how can you tell when an urgent care clinic is the right choice and when you might be better off scheduling a regular doctor’s appointment or even heading to the emergency room?

As a top medical clinic in Los Angeles, Essential Medical Clinic offers both urgent care services and regular doctor’s visits, so you can select the option that suits you best. Here’s how to decide which option — urgent care, regular appointment, or emergency room visit — is better.

Regular appointments

One of the biggest benefits of having a regular office visit is being able to schedule your appointment when it’s most convenient for you. Scheduling ahead of time lets you plan for your visit so you don’t feel rushed. Many people opt for regular office visits for issues like:

  • Physicals, including school and sports physicals
  • Immunizations
  • Regular checkups for chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes or arthritis
  • Medical weight loss sessions
  • Nutrition appointments
  • IV vitamin treatments

A regular office visit is a good option for routine checkups and other care that doesn’t require immediate medical attention. At Essential Medical Clinic, we also offer telehealth services and walk-in services, so you have the broadest options for getting the care you need.

Urgent care visits

Urgent care visits are ideal for more immediate medical needs. You can think of urgent care as “on-demand” medical care. Like regular office visits, urgent care is very convenient. But instead of scheduling your visit for a future date, with urgent care you can walk in right away when you need medical care without waiting to schedule a future appointment. Urgent care visits can be a great option for:

  • Colds and flu
  • Sprains
  • Muscle or joint problems
  • Fever
  • Earaches
  • Sore throat
  • Rashes
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Bellyaches
  • Small cuts or lacerations

The key term here is “urgent.” An urgent care visit is designed to provide immediate care for sickness or minor injuries — issues that require prompt medical attention but that aren’t life-threatening or very serious.

Emergency room visits

No one wants to go to an ER, but sometimes it’s necessary. Emergency rooms are staffed and equipped to handle serious medical problems and emergencies. Going to the ER is your best bet for these serious issues:

  • Chest pain or problems breathing
  • Seizures
  • Major cuts or cuts on your face
  • Serious burns
  • Injuries to your eyes or your head
  • Concussion or unconsciousness, including fainting
  • Slurred speech
  • Weakness on one side of your face or body
  • Broken bones
  • Joint dislocations
  • Changes in mental status, such as significant confusion

Because it costs more to run an emergency room, care provided in an ER often costs substantially more than care provided in urgent care centers or walk-in clinics. Plus, if your issue isn’t really dire, it can take quite some time to see a doctor in an ER. If you need emergency care, you certainly shouldn’t let cost or speed of care keep you from heading to the ER. But, if your issue isn’t an emergency, visiting urgent care or a walk-in clinic can save you both money and time.

Staying healthy is important at every age. If you need urgent or nonurgent medical care — with or without an appointment — we’re here to help at Essential Medical Clinic. To get the care you need, book an appointment online or over the phone or come on in.

learn more about your health: