Emergency Room vs. Walk-In Clinic

Emergency rooms are extensions of hospitals providing 24/7 medical services to cure critically ill patients. Walk-in clinics are mostly seen adjacent to pharmacies or medical stores. They are also called “Retail Clinics” Not all medical conditions require treatment in ER. So, walk-in clinics are constructed to lessen the burden on emergency departments. There are several medical conditions treated in walk-in clinics, so we don’t have to rush towards ER all the time. Walk-in clinics were specially designed for people with no health insurance. They are a reliable option when you require essential medical services. There is no need for an appointment.

The fundamental difference between ER and walk-in clinics is availability. ERs function 24/7, whereas walk-in clinics are not available 24/7. Whether in a hospital or clinic, it’s best to carry your medical records whenever you visit a doctor. They include any medications you are taking currently, any allergies you have, surgeries you had in the past, etc. this helps avoid any health hazard and allows your physician provide you with the best care.

Walk-in clinics are considered alternatives for emergency departments. They have tremendously increased in number in the last few years. However, both areas are different in few aspects and cannot be treated similarly.

Health Care Levels

Health care centers differ from each other in terms of the treatment they provide. They should be visited, keeping in mind the severity of the medical condition. Following are the health care levels:

  • Walk-in/retail clinics
  • Urgent care
  • The emergency room of a hospital

Services Provided in Walk-In Clinics

In case of life-threatening circumstances, walk-in clinics are not a viable option. However, they provide primary services in treating minor health issues like flu, cold, high fever, rashes, minor stomach problems, vomiting, UTIs, earaches, and headaches like a migraine. They can also treat injuries like minor cuts, burns, sprains, fractures, eye injury, cough, sore throat, infection, routine vaccination, and pain in the back. Not all equipment is present, but x-ray and MRI machines are available.

Services Provided in an ER

Medical emergencies are treated in the emergency department of the hospital. They include heart attacks, seizures, cardiac arrest, heaving bleeding, broken bones, unconsciousness, stroke, dressing, removing stitches, etc. They perform tests also. All the equipment and medical supplies are available here.

Benefits of Walk-In Clinics

  • Provide health care without an appointment (first come, first served)
  • Most of the walk-in clinics are open on weekends
  • During weekdays they provide services in the evening also
  • Less crowded so you don’t have to wait longer
  • 80-85% of patients got treated within an hour
  • Low cost
  • Convenient and trustable for minor health issues
  • Best for non-emergencies that must be treated within 24 hours
  • Befitting option for uninsured and underinsured patients in case of primary medical care
  • It saves time and money

Benefits of ER

  • Qualified emergency staff having physicians and nurses
  • Handle a large number of patients efficiently
  • Well-equipped
  • Provide quality treatment
  • 24/7 availability
  • Quick service
  • All medical supplies are available
  • It plays a Life-saving role


At walk-in clinics, you will see a nurse practitioner (NP). NP must be a registered nurse. You may see a doctor (MD), but they are not available all the time. A physician assistant (PA) is also present. They are licensed with 2-3 years of schooling. They can diagnose, prescribe medicine, suggest tests, and assist in surgeries, etc. Some clinics have both PAs and NAs, while some have any of them available for providing treatment. They don’t have training similar to MD, but they are licensed and well-trained to provide primary healthcare. ER staff constitutes emergency doctors, medical students, MRI and x-ray staff, administration, nurses and practitioners, pharmacists, physiotherapists, and registrars. The ER staff is well trained. They are all-time ready for emergencies.

Types of ER

There are two types of ER; a hospital ER and a freestanding ER.

  1. Hospital ER: it is present inside a hospital. Although it functions as an independent unit, the staff provided belongs to the hospital. It is part of the hospital, just like other departments. For inpatient care, they can directly admit the patients.
  2. Freestanding ER: It is owned by a hospital or an organization. It is primarily established in areas where hospitals are far away. Freestanding ERs are not similar to urgent care. The staff contains nurses and doctors who work as private employees. It is identical to a hospital-based ER. For inpatient care, they have agreements with specific local hospitals. A facility of an ambulance is present to transfer the patients and admit them to hospitals. Freestanding ERs have even been constructed in suburban areas also. They provide medical care and services similar to a hospital-based ER.

Types of Walk-In Clinics

There are three types of walk-in clinics listed below:

  1. Community Health Centers (CHCs): They are very reasonable. If you cannot afford medical care due to financial problems, CHCs are the best places to visit. After confirming your financial need, they provide primary care at a low cost. ($50 or less)
  2. Retail clinics: It is a small clinic inside a medical store. They may be present right next to pharmacies. A typical visit will cost you $50-$150.
  3. Urgent care clinics provide a greater variety of services than CHCs and retail clinics and are considered more trustworthy. Visiting an urgent care can cost you $100-$200.


An emergency room costs more because it has all the medical equipment and supplies to treat all types of patients. Prices range from $500-$1500, and sometimes they may reach up to $2000 or $3000 (depending on the hospital). Walk-in clinics are way too cheaper. A visit to a walk-in clinic will cost you $75-$155, depending upon your condition and treatment. ERs can treat anything, but only life-threatening issues need to be addressed there. Walk-in clinics can cure minor health issues. If you are doubtful about your injury that it may worsen, visiting the nearest hospital ER is the best decision.