Emergency Department vs. Urgent Care

You wake up one morning feeling out of sorts. Your muscles ache, you have a headache, and you’re running a fever. You know you should see a doctor as soon as possible, but where should you go? Do you visit your local emergency department (ED)? Or turn to urgent care services? What is the difference between urgent care vs. an emergency room?

This is a common dilemma. With its 24/7 availability, many people seek care in an emergency department. But some health concerns don’t require emergency treatment. Urgent care centers and virtual urgent care services help reduce reliance on emergency rooms for health issues that are not life-threatening.

Visiting an Emergency Department

While a person might have a shorter wait for urgent care, certain medical situations require the resources of an emergency department and an emergency medicine doctor, including:

  • Traumatic injuries, broken bones, suturing of wounds
  • Severe bleeding
  • Poisoning
  • Burn care
  • Seizures
  • Heart attacks or strokes

Urgent Care

Urgent care serves people needing prompt medical attention for minor illnesses or injuries that can’t wait until the next day. At an urgent care center, which may be staffed by doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants, patients can receive treatment for various illnesses. Urgent care works best for situations that need attention but are not life-threatening.

Conditions typically treated by urgent care include:

  • Flu or COVID-19
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Sprains or strains to muscles
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Respiratory infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia
  • Upset stomach or diarrhea

Virtual urgent care visits

NewYork-Presbyterian offers virtual urgent care as a convenient alternative to in-person visits. With virtual urgent care, patients can speak with a doctor through a video appointment that takes place via phone, tablet, or computer.

During a virtual urgent care appointment, you can talk to a provider about your medical concerns and symptoms through the NYP Connect app or our website. Your physician can provide you with a diagnosis, treatment plan, and prescription for medication if needed.

Download the NYP Connect App

NYP Connect allows you to connect digitally with your care team, review your medical records, and much more. You can schedule video visits, request prescription refills, manage your appointments, check in before appointments, access test results, and manage your bills.

Choose NewYork-Presbyterian for Digital Health

You can conveniently connect with our expert physicians through NewYork-Presbyterian’s digital health services. Our virtual urgent care doctors can offer treatments for various medical issues for children and adults, including allergies, the flu, sprains, UTIs, and respiratory infections. They can also send prescriptions straight to your pharmacy.