Urgent Care versus Emergency Care

Urgent Care Centers

By choosing to go to an urgent care center in non-life-threatening situations, your employees can avoid the long wait times and higher out-of-pocket costs associated with emergency room (ER) visits.

Here’s what to expect from an urgent care facility:

  • Average wait time of less than one hour

  • Fast and personalized care from qualified medical professionals

  • Extended service hours, often including evenings and weekends

  • Walk-ins; usually no appointment required

Services Offered

Urgent care facilities are for conditions that are not life-threatening but do need attention right away. Services commonly offered at Urgent care centers include:

  • Physical exams

  • Lab tests

  • EKGs

  • X-rays

If your physician isn’t available, urgent care providers can also help manage some chronic health conditions by, for example, adjusting diabetes medication.

Emergency Rooms

If someone experiences symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, or feels their "life or limb" is in danger, the person should go directly to the emergency room or call 911.

Urgent Care Centers vs. Emergency Rooms

Urgent Care Centers Emergency Rooms
Cough, sore throat, respiratory infections Any life-threatening or disabling condition
Ear aches Injury, with loss of consciousness or fainting
Back pain, body aches Uncontrolled bleeding
Burning with urination Sudden numbness of limbs or face, difficulty speaking
Colds, sinus infections, allergies Severe shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Eye irritation, swelling or pain Sudden, severe chest pain or pressure
Muscle strains Major injuries, vehicle accidents, stab wounds
Rashes, minor cuts, scrapes, wounds Poisoning
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea Sudden, severe abdominal pain
Animal bites Vomiting blood

How to Locate an Urgent Care Center

Use Blue Shield’s Find a Provider tool to find an urgent care center for covered services.

Another Avenue for After-Hours Care

Some issues may not be urgent or an emergency, but occur outside of doctors’ office hours. For questions relating to minor health issues, we’re pleased to offer Blue Shield members 24-hour toll-free access to a registered nurse through NurseHelp 24/7 at (877) 304-0504.

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