Should I go to the emergency room or urgent care?

Who is this for?

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This information can help you figure out where to go for medical treatment when you need it most.

When you’re sick or injured, deciding where to get care is the last thing you want to worry about.

Understanding your options now will make decisions easier when you need immediate care.

Doctor, urgent and emergency care

Your primary doctor is the best place to start when you're sick or hurt. They know your health history, including any underlying conditions you may have. When you visit your doctor for an illness or injury, they can make informed choices about your treatment and necessary tests. And many primary care doctors have evening and weekend hours to accommodate busy schedules.

But what if you get sick or injured when your doctor's office is closed?

If your condition isn’t life-threatening but needs to be taken care of right away, then urgent care may be the right choice for you. 

Urgent care centers are usually open after normal business hours, including evenings and weekends. Many offer on-site diagnostic tests. And, in most situations, you'll find that you save time and money by going to urgent care instead of an emergency room.

Emergency rooms are the best place for treating severe and life-threatening conditions. They’re open 24 hours, seven days a week. They have the widest range of services for emergency after-hours care, including diagnostic tests and access to specialists. That specialized care also makes it the most expensive type of care. And you'll probably have to wait a long time to get treated.

The important thing is to use your best judgment when choosing where to get care. 

Be prepared

It's a good idea to know where the closest emergency room and urgent care centers are. You can use our Find a Doctor tool to find one nearby. So if you need immediate care, you'll already know where to go.

Building a relationship with your primary doctor who knows you and your health history is important, especially in those moments when you need help making the best decision on where to get immediate care. 

If you don't already have a primary doctor, use our tool to find a doctor.

Find out more

You can read more about emergency and urgent care on our blogs. There's information to help you make the right choice for you when you need immediate care. 

If you're a Blues member you can also call our 24-hour nurse line to talk to a registered nurse about general health questions or find additional resources.