When to Go to an Urgent Care Center and When to Go to the Emergency Department

By James J.  Flowers, DO
Medical Director, Cooper Urgent Care Centers
Emergency Medicine, Cooper University Health Care

It’s Saturday morning. You’re at your daughter’s soccer game. She is about to kick a goal when her foot gets caught on the turf, she twists her ankle, and exits the game in pain. Before the advent of urgent care, you would have taken your daughter to the nearest hospital-based emergency department and waited a few hours before she received an evaluation, X-ray, and treatment.

Today, you can take your daughter to an urgent care center and have her seen and treated within minutes by a board-certified primary care physician – or, as at all Cooper Urgent Care Centers, by board-certified emergency medicine physicians. Urgent care is many things, but mainly a local alternative to a hospital emergency department.

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Save yourself the wait! Reserve your spot at any Cooper Urgent Care Center.

Accessibility to immediate medical care and affordability are key components of urgent care. It is designed to handle those times when good sense dictates that a condition should not wait for medical attention until the next available appointment with a family physician. If an emergency department visit feels excessive, but a stop at a local drug store clinic is not enough, urgent care bridges the gap.

For the consumer, urgent care is designed to be ultra-convenient, cost less, and save time. Unlike emergency departments where patients can face long waits, urgent care seeks to treat and release within an hour. Redirecting consumers from overcrowded emergency departments to a more targeted and less costly alternative is a major tenet in the nation’s health care reform efforts. Emergency departments should treat major health issues such as chest pain, severe abdominal pain, uncontrolled bleeding, and stroke symptoms (F.A.S.T.—Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 911). But for anyone with non-life-threatening conditions—cuts, sprains, simple fractures, burns, flu symptoms, and allergic reactions—or busy workers who need care before or after work, urgent care provides a good solution. Also, with fall and winter holidays approaching, urgent care is ideal for out-of-towners when an illness or injury occurs.

Lastly, urgent care can also address routine medical issues such as physicals, flu immunizations, and other important but non-life-threatening medical conditions.

As convenient as urgent care centers are, they are not a replacement for having a regular family doctor. It is important that patients have a relationship with a pediatrician or primary care physician depending upon the age of the patient. Primary care physicians know their patient’s medical histories and can manage their patient’s health over the long term.

If you do find yourself in an urgent care center, be sure to follow up with or have a report of your visit sent to your family doctor so it can become part of your medical record.

But for that Saturday soccer-field injury, the nearest urgent care center is right, and ready for you.

Cooper Urgent Care is located in Audubon, Cherry Hill, and Cinnaminson, and opens early and closes late – along with weekend and holiday hours. All three centers will be open on Labor Day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Visit CooperHealth.org/urgentcare and Reserve Your Spot. We’ll be expecting you.

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