Ask the managing editor: What is the difference between urgent care centers and free-standing ERs?


With so many different health care facilities to consider when we need medical care, it’s important to stay informed of the differences.

Minor illnesses, such as sore throats, upper respiratory symptoms and flu-like symptoms, as well as basic broken bones or cuts can be treated at an urgent care center, said Dr. Robert Hitchcock, executive vice president for Dallas-based T-System. Hitchock said health care consumers will likely have an average copay of $25-$50, depending on their insurance coverage.

Retail clinics such as H-E-B RediClinics and CVS MinuteClinics can also treat minor illnesses with similar copays, Hitchcock said.

Freestanding emergency rooms can have higher copays of around $100-$500 in addition to facility fees and operating fees, Hitchcock said. However, they offer equipment and physicians on-site 24/7 that are not typically found at urgent cares or retail clinics. They can treat open fractures, neck injuries, chest pains, stroke symptoms and other more serious ailments.

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  1. My husband was seriously ill with a bladder infection. It was a Saturday in March so we thought that it would faster to go to the new urgent care that had opened by the new Kroger in Montgomery.
    When we first got I was checking in with the receptionist who was not very well trained on the paperwork or what she needed from the patient. She asked me the same questions over and over which was very frustrating. Meanwhile my husband is in extreme pain!
    When we do get to go into a room the store next door is cutting the concrete and the noise is so loud that the nursing technicians can hardly talk or hear and they never thought about moving us to a different room. They did a urinalysis dip test and then the Dr. told us that they would have to send the sample out and it takes three days for results. So she gave him a prescription for Cepromiasine and sent us home.
    Luckily my husband lived to see the next day and he wanted to go to Conroe ER and we got right in and the Dr. Ordered a ct scan,urinalysis and they started an iv so they could give pain medications and then the Dr. came back with all of the results and told us that he had a serious bladder infection, but he could take the right antibiotic and pain medication and recover at home.
    Moral of the story is that urgent care and fast ERs are only for triage!

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