Difference Between Urgent Care and ER


Oct 9, 2020


If you are trying to make a quick decision about where to go when you’re sick or injured but are struggling to understand the difference between urgent care and ER facilities, know that you are far from alone.

Of Complete Care’s fifteen current locations, thirteen are freestanding ER facilities, while the remaining two (in Colorado Springs, CO and Lakeway, TX) are hybrid urgent care and ER facilities. Patients visiting our freestanding ER and hybrid urgent care/ER facilities often share concerns about not understanding the difference between freestanding Urgent Care and ER.

This confusion is understandable. We created this guide to the differences between urgent care and ER facilities to help clear up confusion on this matter and to answer the most frequently asked questions we receive regarding this topic.

Need answers fast? Call thenearest Complete Care center. We have locations in most major Texas cities as well as Colorado Springs, CO.

When should I go to an urgent care or freestanding ER instead of a hospital?

Before we tackle the differences between urgent care and ER facilities, we should first cover why you might benefit from visiting one of these facilities instead of your standard ER or hospital.

Free-standing ER facilities are required by law to meet the same standards as ERs connected to a hospital. They are state-sanctioned, licensed, open 24/7, and provide the exact same services as a hospital  ER. In fact, Complete Care ER facilities use state-of-the art equipment that is used in your standard hospital ERs.

But Complete Care freestanding ER facilities offer one thing that your standard ER typically cannot: no long wait times. Instead of waiting hours in pain to be seen, you get prompt, thorough, and considerate treatment.

Meanwhile, the urgent care facilities at our ER/urgent care hybrid locations in Colorado Springs, CO and Lakeway, TX are open from 9 AM to 4 PM, Monday – Saturday. (The ER facilities in these hybrid locations are still open 24/7.)

Our urgent care facilities are perfect for when you have minor injuries or illnesses (such as the common cold or sore throat) and can’t wait for a doctor’s appointment. Simply walk in and get the help you need from our professional and caring team — fast. 

Should I go to urgent care or the ER? A general rule of thumb

Urgent care facilities and ER facilities are meant to handle different kinds of health issues. For the average person, however, it can be difficult to differentiate between an urgent medical problem and a medical emergency – and thus difficult to know whether they should go to an urgent care clinic or a freestanding ER. 

To that end, the general rule of thumb that Complete Care likes to share is as follows:

If you or your loved one has a life-threatening injury or illness, has broken a bone or might lose a limb, or has or has suddenly lost their vision, you will most likely want to go to a Complete Care emergency room.

If your or your loved one is ill or has suffered a non-life-threatening injury and needs immediate medical attention, you will most likely want to go to a Complete Care urgent care facility.

Please note that urgent care is available only in Colorado Springs, CO and Lakeway, TX, 9AM – 4PM, Monday – Saturday. 

Clarifying the difference between the urgent care and ER: services and staff

Of course, there is more to the difference between urgent care and ER facilities than the rule of thumb mentioned above. Let’s review these now.

Urgent care vs. emergency room services

Emergency room services

Our free-standing emergency room facilities are equipped to treat children and adults for both major and minor medical emergencies. These include but are not limited to:

  • Heart attack and chest pain
  • Major burns and chemical exposure
  • Fractures
  • Appendicitis
  • Overdose

Our emergency room is equipped with top-of-the line medical devices, allowing our patient-oriented team of doctors to provide you with the same quality of care as a hospital without the wait. We are equipped with imaging technology, including X-ray, Ultrasound, and CT scan technology, as well as lab testing.  For more information about our emergency treatments, please see ouremergency room servicespage.

Urgent care services

Our urgent care facilities provide patients with dedicated and high-quality care for routine ailments and minor injuries (cuts, scrapes, and bruises). These include but are not limited to:

  • Allergies
  • Common Cold
  • Rashes
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Minor infections

We also provide routine physicals and treat a range of childhood illnesses. For more information about our treatments, please check out oururgent care services page.

Urgent care vs. emergency room staff

One difference between urgent care and freestanding ERs that often gets overlooked is the type of staff that works at each facility. Most urgent care facilities are staffed by physician assistants and nursing assistants. Meanwhile, most ERs are staffed by ICU and ER doctors and nurses, as well as imaging experts.

At Complete Care, both our urgent care and ER facilities are staffed by patient-centered professionals who treat our patients like family. As you can see in ourtestimonials, we are known not only for our high quality care, but also for the degree of warmth and care with which we treat our patients.

Many of our locations have won the prestigiousGuardian of Excellence Award byPress Ganey, a nationally recognized designation for outstanding achievement in healthcare that is only given to the top 5% of healthcare organizations in the United States.

How Complete Care handles urgent care vs. emergency room services in our hybrid locations

Before we get too much further into the details of the difference between urgent care and ER facilities, we must mention Complete Care’s unique approach to the problem of choosing between urgent care and emergency room treatment in our hybrid urgent care/ER facilities.

When you visit our two Complete Care locations (in Colorado Springs or Lakeway, TX) that have both urgent care and emergency room services under one roof you don’t have to worry about showing up to the wrong type of medical clinic or keeping the difference between urgent care and ER facilities straight in your head. We take care of that for you.

Unlike other clinics with this setup, however, we are always very transparent with our patients about when they are being treated as an urgent care or emergency patient, because this will ultimately impact how a patient is billed. You can rest assured that our front desk will guide you through our simplified billing process, setting up payment in a way that is as fair as it is affordable.

Complete Care accepts most major insurances. For more information about insurance coverage by free-standing emergency rooms, please see ourComplete Care insurance information page.

Why would a freestanding ER send me to the hospital?

Since Complete Care freestanding ERs can provide the same services as an ER connected to a hospital, we move patients to a hospital for the same reasons a “standard” ER would do so. Namely, if it was in your best interest to see a specialist or receive hospitalization. Should you need to be moved to a hospital, we have direct admissions with the majority of hospitals near our locations, and will arrange for your easy transition to a new facility via ambulance.

Still not sure of the difference between urgent care and ER facilities? Complete Care can help.

There’s nothing worse than being in pain and not knowing where to go to get help. If you or a loved one is sick or injured and you’re stuck struggling to understand the difference between urgent care and ER facilities,contact us.

If you now have the clarity you need about urgent care vs. freestanding ERs and are ready to get treatment, the Complete Care team is here to get you the care you need ASAP. With no long wait times and an award-winning staff, we make the experience of visiting an ER as smooth and pleasant as possible. At Complete Care, you can get in, get out, and get on with your life.

Visit any of ourTexas locations or see us in Colorado Springs, CO today.