When you have a medical emergency in the United States, you typically have two main options. These are the emergency room at your local hospital or a regional medical clinic, either associated with the hospital or a private company. There are several differences between the two, and it is important to know what those differences are.
A medical clinic is an alternative to the emergency room that usually meets the community's outpatient needs. Usually they are privately owned or managed by the public health system. They treat minor emergencies that do not threaten life and limb and where there is not a lot of bleeding from an open wound.
Depending on where you live, there are different types of clinic options. There are those, such as in Canada, that are completely funded by the government. In other countries, such as the United States, there are those that offer free or cheap care for those who do not have the option of insurance. Other options include those that are in major stores, such as Wal-mart, Walgreens, and Target, or specialty, such as those which perform fertility treatments, abortions, or ambulatory surgery.
One difference between medical clinics and the emergency room is shorter wait times. Because ambulances coming in with trauma patients will always come before anyone waiting in line and trauma patients are seen first, so if you have a minor injury or cut, you are the last to be treated.
Another difference between private care and public emergency rooms are that you will have several doctors to choose from. Sometimes specialists are available as well, such as orthopedics. In this case, you will see a general physician followed by an orthopedic surgeon who will set a bone or put on a cast if needed. An emergency room offers treatments that are more specialized and can offer overnight stays if needed. Emergency rooms are also open 24 hours, after others have closed for the night.
A third difference between private care options and the emergency room is the price. Too many people use the ER as their regular doctor visit because they do not have insurance, making the premiums more expensive for those who need it on an emergency basis.
If you have a minor injury and do not need extreme medical care, the medical clinic will be more effective for your needs and be more cost effective for you. However, if you think you may be suffering symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, or experiencing severe bleeding, head straight to the nearest emergency room.