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Emergency vs. Urgency: Where should you be treated?

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You're walking through your living room, trip and twist your ankle. You're not sure if it's broken, but you definitely think a trip to the doctor is necessary. Now you need to make a decision, will you go to the emergency room or an urgent care clinic?

The difference between urgent care clinic and emergency departments?

Urgent care clinics are open later then your doctors office and usually on the weekends and have walk in availability. If you have a simple sickness or injury, during non-business hours, or your regular doctor is unavailable, an urgent care clinic can get you treated in a timely manner.

Hospital emergency departments provide medical care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They are also equipped with more testing equiptment then an urgent care and staffed to treat more complex or critical needs, including life-threatening situations like a heart attack or stroke.

Which one is faster?

The short answer is "it depends." Most urgent care clinics see patients on a first come, first served basis, so if you're in a rush and have a minor injury or illness, urgent care may be the best choice. 80% of urgent care visits are completed in 60 minutes or less.

In contrast, emergency departments treat the most severe cases first, so you might be sitting around with your sprained ankle on ice for a while if someone comes in that needs immediate medical attention.

Which one is cheaper?

If you have insurance, urgent care is the cheaper option. In fact, it can save you up to 75% the cost of an emergency room visit.

Which one do I really need?

Oftentimes, choosing to go to the ER or an urgent care center is a matter of convenience. If you're still not sure which one you need, here's a basic list of symptoms and the appropriate place to get them treated:

Emergency room:

  • Traumatic injuries
  • Chest pain
  • Stroke symptoms
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Palpitations
  • Abdominal pain
  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • High fevers
  • Complicated cuts or burns
  • Eye or facial injuries
  • Poisoning or overdoses
  • Sick infants under 6 months of age


Urgent Care:

  • Coughs, congestion, sore throats
  • Mild fever
  • Minor asthma
  • Rashes and allergic reactions
  • Pink eye
  • Animal and bug bites
  • Broken bones or joint injuries
  • Simple cuts or burns
  • Painful urination
  • Skin infections
  • Flu-related vomiting or diarrhea
  • Strains or sprains
  • Minor head injuries


Central Maine Urgent Care is an open clinic facility that provides care for patients of all ages. Whether you are local or from out of town, CMMC will provide expert care for your unexpected needs and will arrange for a seamless transition of information back to your primary care provider. For more information visit https://www.cmmc.org/urgent-care-fast-facts