When do you go to urgent care vs. an emergency room?

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Thousands of people use emergency rooms and urgent care centers in Northeast Kansas every year.  But do you know the difference between the two, and when to use each?  Health professionals in Topeka are saying many people get confused on where to go when immediate medical ailments arise.

Korri Phillips, the Medical Director at Cotton O’Neil Express Care Clinics said the biggest difference is the emergency room is there for life or limb threatening illnesses or injuries.

“The express care is more for immediate care needs; fevers, sore throats, ear aches, sprains, strains, fractures. We always joke that it’s fractures without the bone sticking out of the skin.”

Between primary care offices, urgent and express care, and emergency rooms, many may not know where the best place to go is, when a critical medical situation arises.

Phillips said the following are emergencies appropriate for the ER, “I tell people to think of it as a threat to life, limb, or to their eye sight.”

Urgent cares are opportune for more immediate medical concerns, when your primary care doctor is unavailable.

“I come here because it’s something the doctor can take care of and it’s not an emergency situation,” said Jackie Creek, a patient at Cotton O’Neil Express Care.

When using Express or Urgent Cares instead of Emergency Rooms, wait times are significantly less, and co-pays are easier on your wallet.

“So the express cares still charge the co-pays, but the co-pays are much less than the emergency room and the cost of care is much less than the emergency room. There are national studies that now show there are immediate cost benefits for the patient. Most of it is the convenience and not having to make an appointment.  You can walk in.  You can be seen at your own convenience. Right now we have six clinics across Topeka and 5 of the six clinics are open on the weekend. The other clinics are open throughout the day and into the evening, and then also the weekend hours,” said Phillips.

If you are still unsure on what is the best facility to go to, you can always call to get advice from a medical professional before arriving in person.

Recently, three Cotton O’Neil Express Care facilities received accreditation from the Urgent Care Association of America.


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