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Are Urgent Care Centers Safer than Emergency Rooms?

 Urgent care centers have been popping up in communities all around the country. These standalone facilities are not connected to hospitals and do not provide all of the same services that emergency rooms do. They are there to provide an option to those who are experiencing simple problems such as ear aches, minor cuts requiring stitches or minor bone fractures, rashes and insect bites, and are a convenience – especially when your doctor’s office is closed or you can’t get an immediate appointment. Some people think that urgent care centers are an alternative to the emergency room, or even think that they are safer than emergency rooms because they fear emergency room errors, but this is not the case. The two types of facilities provide very different services, and it is important that you understand the difference when you are facing a true emergency and are not certain where to go.

It is understandable to be concerned about emergency room errors – nobody wants to take a chance with their health. But urgent care centers are neither equipped nor staffed in a way that provides an alternative to a life-threatening emergency.  Urgent care centers are open during hours that your physician’s office may not be, which makes them great for minor medical issues, but they are not open 24 hours. They also may not always be staffed by a physician – and even if there is a doctor on staff, they are rarely trained in emergency medicine. Urgent care facilities also do not have diagnostic equipment or laboratories on their premises, and do not have access to specialists such as orthopedic surgeons or cardiologists that may be needed in a true emergency. By contrast, emergency rooms are part of larger hospitals where those types of physicians are on staff and on call, available to provide treatment to emergency room patients at a moment’s notice.

People who choose to go to an urgent care center instead of an emergency room may be putting themselves at unnecessary risk. If the urgent care center is unable to provide you with the care that you need, you create a delay in your ability to get treatment as you will then have to be taken to a hospital.

In addition to these other issues, it is important to remember that urgent care facilities are private businesses that are not required to accept all patients in need of care in the same way that emergency rooms do. An urgent care center may not accept your insurance coverage, or may ask you to provide payment up front in order to receive treatment. This is not the case with emergency rooms, which are required by law to screen and treat any patient, no matter whether they can pay or not.

Though emergency room physicians and staff can and do make mistakes, the same is true of the staff at urgent care centers. When you are facing a medical emergency, time is of the essence. Make sure that you get to the appropriate facility as quickly as you can. If you believe that you have been the victim of negligence or medical malpractice by any health care practitioner, the attorneys at Jonathan Perkins Injury Lawyers can help. Call us today to discuss your case.


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