Archive | November 30, 2017

Urgent Care or ER? Know Where to Go

By Donna Padgett, ACNP, at Lexington Medical Center

Should I Go to the Emergency Room or Urgent Care?

Unfortunately, you can’t schedule illnesses and injuries. It is important to seek appropriate and timely care if you feel sick or become injured. But where do you go if your primary care doctor is not available or you don’t have a doctor? While the answer is not always simple, understanding the difference between urgent care and emergency care, and knowing where to seek treatment can save you time, money and, most importantly, your life in an emergency.

The terms “emergency” and “urgent care” imply a medical need that requires quick attention; however, there are distinct differences between hospital emergency rooms and traditional urgent care centers, specifically the level of care provided at each facility.

Urgent care centers are same-day clinics where providers see patients with medical problems that need to be treated right away; however, these problems are not considered true emergencies. Urgent care centers address issues typically handled by your primary doctor. Common conditions treated at urgent care include coughs, sore throat, earache, painful urination, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, injuries (cuts and sprains), etc. Most urgent care centers are open after normal business hours, including nights, weekends and holidays. They are staffed by physicians and nurse practitioners, and offer lab work, X-rays and other diagnostic testing. In most situations, patients will save time and money by going to an urgent care center instead of an emergency room.

An emergency room is the best place for treating severe and life-threatening conditions. Unlike urgent care centers, they are equipped and staffed for the most complex and critical needs, such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, weakness or pain in a leg or arm, severe headache, head injuries, eye injuries, seizures, deep wounds, broken bones, serious burns, etc. Emergency rooms are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Because emergency rooms offer the widest range of services, including diagnostic tests and access to specialists, the care is more expensive. Also, patients can expect longer wait times in an emergency room, especially if they go for a non-emergent problem.

Everyone should know where to find their closest emergency room and urgent care center. Lexington Medical Center has five urgent care centers located in Batesburg- Leesville, Chapin, Irmo, Lexington and Swansea. The Lexington and Irmo urgent care centers have CT scan and MRI capability, in addition to X-ray and laboratory services.

Lexington Medical Center’s Emergency department is located at its main campus in West Columbia, near the I-26 and Highway 378 interchange.