Urgent care quickly takes care of many of the minor medical problems that people have been used to going to the hospital emergency room for. How quickly? In half the time of your local hospital?s emergency room. In 2014, the CDC reported that the average emergency room visit duration was 2 hours, including both wait and treatment time. Almost 80% of all urgent care visits are no more than an hour, according to The Urgent Care Association of America.

It?s refreshing to have one on one care in a small, comfortable space. The hustle and bustle of the emergency room is a necessary discomfort in many cases, but there are several instances where urgent care might be a better choice. From flu vaccination to minor sprains, urgent care provides emergency services in a relaxed setting. Here are some factors to consider when deciding on visiting an urgent care clinic or the emergency room:

To Wait or Not to Wait? That is the Question

We?ve established the shorter wait time advantage of an urgent care center, but unlike the emergency room, urgent care facilities are not open 24 hours. About 66% of them are open before 9 am during the week, with just under half opening that early on Saturday and Sunday. Only 10% of all urgent care facilities close before 7 pm, and 2 out of 5 of them stay open until 9pm. So deciding on whether to go to urgent care also depends on the time of your injury, as well as its severity, and since only 29% of primary care physicians have after-hours coverage, urgent care is the simplest choice.

Speaking of Severity, Here are Some Things to Consider

There were about 6,400 urgent care centers in the U.S. in 2013. Of those, 4 out of 5 provide care for broken bones, and 7 out of 10 administer intravenous fluids. The most popular minor emergencies that are handled by urgent care include

  • ear pain
  • fever, vomiting, and/or diarrhea
  • flu vaccination
  • minor cuts and sprains

Many urgent care centers also provide x-rays and in-house lab testing with updated systems for viewing those results. So essentially, most of what we use the emergency room for can be handled by an urgent care facility about 80% of the time. And urgent care doesn?t just handle minor emergencies. Physical exams for work, school, and sports, STD testing, and pediatric care are among those services offered as well.

One on One Care

10 years ago, you would see a hodgepodge of injuries lining emergency room walls, and you?d have to wait 2, 3, 4, or more hours to be called to the back for a doctor to see you. Minor burns, a flesh wound, slight dehydration- no matter how major or minor, the hospital emergency room was the only place to go, and doctors were so busy that they barely had time to greet you warmly while you were in the middle of your own personal crisis. Many physicians transitioned out of the hospital emergency room setting into an urgent care one to provide the personal care that patients in a crisis need. About 50% of all urgent care centers are privately owned by physicians, and 4 out of 5 of them all have less than 450 patient visits per week. Over 60% of them also have a physician at the office at all times, so this means that you will receive a level of personal care and attention that the hospital can?t always afford to offer due to the high volume of visitors. From a tuberculosis shot to a flu vaccination, consider urgent care for kids and adults for your immediate wellness needs.