ER Vs. UCC: Which Should I Use?

By: AvMed Health Tips AvMed Health Smarts, Benefits

Accidents happen. And when they do, where should you go? Your immediate reaction might be to head to the emergency room (ER). But that may not be the best place to receive treatment.

Depending on the situation, a trip to the doctor’s office may be enough; or you may not even have to leave your home – the AvMed Nurse On Call advice line provides you with an opportunity to first speak with a nurse about for minor ailments from your phone, tablet or computer. Call 1-888-866-5432 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For more serious care, a visit to an urgent care center (UCC) is a better alternative. However, figuring out when to visit a UCC instead of an ER can be confusing. 

Here’s a quick guide to help you determine when to go to a UCC and when to go to the ER.

Urgent Care Centers 101

In a nutshell, an urgent care center is a medical facility that handles non-life-threatening health issues for people of all ages. These are a great solution for patients who need to quickly see a doctor when their Primary Care Physician (PCP) is unavailable (e.g., after hours). However, they are not a replacement for your annual visits to your PCP.

Some advantages of going to a UCC include lower out-of-pocket copayments, lower coinsurance rates and shorter waiting times. They’re also more convenient since urgent care centers are well-equipped to handle walk-ins and are often open for extended and weekend hours.

If your non-life-threatening health issue includes any of the following please visit an urgent care center.

  • Fevers
  • Strains
  • Sprains
  • Back pain
  • Simple fractures
  • Ear infections
  • Bronchitis

When to Visit an ER

Unlike urgent care centers, emergency rooms are designed to provide care for more serious and potentially life-threatening situations. They should not be used to treat minor ailments, as emergency room visits cost more and can involve longer wait times.

Call 911 for potentially life-threatening emergencies such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, signs of stroke or extended loss of consciousness.

To find an urgent care center near you, visit and click “Find an Urgent Care Center” on the left side of the home page.

What to Do After An Admission

Remember: Schedule your follow-up visit with your doctor as soon as possible; it’s recommended you see him or her within 7 to 30 days of your discharge, depending on your diagnosis. Bring a list of your pre hospitalization medications and your post-hospital medications to review with your doctor to make sure you are taking the right combination of medications.