Urgent care v. Emergency care: Breaking down options when patients are sick and injured

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The staff at the new CHRISTUS Velocity Urgent Care in Bossier City. (Stacey Tinsley/Press-Tribune)

By Stacey Tinsley, stinsley@bossierpress.com

When you or a loved one has been injured or is feeling ill and you cannot get in with your primary care physician, you typically have two choices: urgent care or emergency care.

Urgent care is quickly emerging as an alternative to patients wanting to avoid the long waits and expensive costs of the Emergency Room.

Urgent care is an outpatient healthcare facility that offers immediate medical services to treat acute injuries and chronic illnesses. Urgent care does not substitute routine care provided by a primary care physician nor does it replace the life-saving care provided in an emergency room.

“I like to compare medical care to the combat zone. You have your aids stations, then you have the field hospital. Aids stations are like urgent care. You treat bronchitis, colds, sprains, things like that. A field hospital is like the ER. You go to the ER if you need a cat scan, surgery, specialty consult, cardiac intervention,” explained John Messier Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C), Urgent care provider for CHRISTUS Velocity Urgent Care. “There are a lot of things that we do here much, like primary care or walk in clinics. It’s a quick fix with a 2-hour time frame.” 

Some common reasons to visit CHRISTUS Velocity Urgent Care include, but are not limited to breathing treatments, cryotherapy, EKG, IV therapy, minor burn care, fractures, cuts, wounds and even things like a nosebleed or ingrown toenail. 

CHRISTUS Velocity Urgent Care recently opened its Bossier location at 2703 Beene Dr. in Bossier City. They are open from 8:00 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

CHRISTUS Velocity Urgent Care also treats things like allergic reactions, cold and flu, nausea, fever, headaches, sinus infections, and toothaches. 

While all of these ailments can be treated in an emergency room, doing so could be more complicated and costly for the patient, said Messier.

“Besides cost, it’s time. In today’s society it’s so fast paced — people want in and out. They want a quick fix. You will definitely get that coming here. You’re not waiting 3-plus hours in the ER. So besides the cost, time is a huge factor.”

Urgent care centers have lower copayments and significantly less expensive treatments, while a visit to the emergency room is much costlier because they are staffed and prepared for any emergency.

Emergency care departments are intended for life-threatening emergencies. Any condition that threatens to permanently damage or compromise the life of a patient warrants a visit to the emergency room. 

When choosing between emergency care and urgent care, Messier says to ask yourself: Is this injury or illness life-threatening or life-altering? 

“If the answer is ‘Yes,’ go to the emergency room. If the answer is, ‘No,’ go to the closest urgent care facility. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if your condition is life threatening or not. And often, individuals incorrectly choose which type of care they need,” he said.