When It's Urgent, Save Time and Save Money

In a life-threatening emergency, it is important to go directly to the emergency room (ER); however, people with non-emergency needs often go straight to an ER for an injury or illness that could have been treated by a doctor at an urgent care clinic for the same level of high quality medical care, wasting valuable time. Approximately 65 percent of visits to an urgent care clinic wait less than 20 minutes before seeing a provider and only about 5 percent waited up to 90 minutes. Knowing the difference between a true emergency and one that is an urgent-care injury or illness not only could save time, but also money.


According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a visit to the ER can cost two to three times more on average than a visit to an urgent care clinic for the same injury or illness. With quicker access to healthcare at a more affordable price, it is no surprise urgent care clinics are proven to be the better choice for non-emergency medical care. Urgent care clinics offer care and services for injuries and illnesses that aren’t life-threatening, but require medical attention as soon as possible. At a growth rate of 12 percent each year, more than 9,000 urgent care clinics in the U.S. provide non-emergency care for more than three million visits per week. In a 2010 study with NIH, 14 to 27 percent of ER visits could be treated at an urgent care clinic. That translates into a potential cost savings of approximately $4.4 billion a year.

It is important to know when you should go to an emergency room and when you should opt for a visit to a nearby urgent care clinic. Some common injuries and illnesses that require a visit to the emergency room include:

  • Chest pain, pressure 
  • Suspected heart attack or stroke
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Compound fracture (bone protrudes through skin)
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Heavy, uncontrollable bleeding
  • Moderate to severe burns
  • Poisoning or suspected poisoning
  • Serious head, neck or back injury
  • Seizures lasting longer than five minutes
  • High fever and vomiting that continues nonstop for several hours

When to consider a visit to an urgent care clinic includes:

  • Cough, cold, flu, sore throat
  • Earache, ear pain
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Skin infection, rash, skin lump, bump or growth
  • Minor cuts
  • Minor sport injury and strain
  • Nausea, dizziness, vomiting
  • Fever without convulsion (uncontrollable shaking)

Urgent care clinics play a vital role in providing quality healthcare for a community. With the convenient extended hours and no-appointment visits with shorter average wait times a visit to an urgent care clinic is a time and money-saving alternative.

UnityPoint Health – Allen Hospital offers two convenient urgent care clinics in Cedar Falls and Waterloo, Iowa, to provide healthcare services where and when you need it. For more information about our urgent care services, contact us today.

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