Primary Care vs Urgent Care vs Emergency Room

We know that whenever people face a medical emergency, they rush towards the hospital. In addition to the hospital, other health care clinics can treat the people right in time according to their condition. When it comes to health, first comes primary care. Considering the whole healthcare system as a tower made up of building blocks, the first building block would be primary care. The patient’s interaction with a doctor can treat him for almost all kinds of medical emergencies. The second block is urgent care. It is a place where the patient goes in case of an acute emergency. Thirdly, there comes an emergency room where the patient goes in the situation of a fatal emergency.


Primary care generally includes only one doctor whom the patient visits regularly. It is the first interaction of a patient with a doctor in case of a medical emergency, for example, sore throat or flu. These minor diseases go on throughout one’s life. That is the reason it is said that the patient is more familiar with his primary physician. This doctor may be a specialist or surgeon. Still, most of the time, they are general physicians who can deal with many patients having different diseases or medical emergencies.

Urgent care centre’s staff comprises of surgeons( who perform minor surgeries, for example, giving a few stitches, etc.), physicians ( a doctor who diagnoses and treat illness), the assistants, practitioners and lab technicians( who are expert in using machines like Xrays and do blood testing as well). There is a whole team of medical staff with advanced machinery. This staff can deal with all the cases of primary care as well as acute emergencies.

The emergency room’s staff comprises specialist doctors( who have specialized in studying specific body parts and their diseases), surgeons( who perform minor and major surgeries), physicians and their assistants, practitioners, and lab technicians. They all can deal with minor illnesses and acute emergencies, but they are trained to deal with extreme emergencies as well, those situations in which there is a chance that the patient can lose his life. We could say it is a life-threatening emergency.


In primary care, the patient has to make an appointment with the doctor before checkup unless it is a severe emergency. The patient has to provide every detail of his medical history to the doctor. The primary care doctor also keeps a record of the medical history of the patient. In this case, it becomes easier for the doctor to treat the patient and maintain his health because he knows what drug or treatment suits him the best. It is also suitable for the patient because the doctor knows everything about his health and would understand his situation in a better way.

In urgent care, the patient can come at any time during the working hours of the urgent care centre. The patient does not need to provide any medical history, nor do the doctors record them. The actual scenario is that most patients visit urgent care when they need it, like having some acute emergency. Now medical emergency is generally defined as the effect on the body that does not last long if it is treated. So not all, but 70% of emergencies have nothing to do with a patient’s medical history. For instance, if a boy fell from the swing and his toe started to bleed, it has nothing to do with the flu that he had two weeks ago. So the patients come in the urgent care, tell their symptoms to the doctor.

The doctors diagnose the issue and prescribe him the medicines. Similarly, in the case of minor burns or cuts, the patient goes to urgent care, the doctor applies to medicine, does his bandage, prescribe his medicines, and the treatment is done. Now the patient is free to go.

In the emergency room,¬† generally, doctors need to check the patient’s health history, and the patient needs to take an appointment with him. For instance, a patient under cardiac arrest is brought to the emergency room. The doctor would immediately give him some medicine that will stabilize his condition. Then the doctor would check the patient’s history that either he faced similar circumstances in the past or not, and then he would treat the patient accordingly. Suppose there is a bomb blast in the second case, and five severely injured people are brought to the emergency room. The doctor will not need any medical history for that patient; instead, he would immediately treat those patients, and surgeons would perform surgeries if needed to save their lives.

Services Provided

Consulting primary care is recommended in the cases of:

  • Flu
  • Nausea
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Acne
  • Allergies
  • Regular pregnancy checkups
  • Sugar level checkup
  • Regular dental checkup

Urgent care provides all the services of primary care. They deal with minor emergencies as well, and due to the availability of  different types of machinery, they could provide some extra services like

  • Treating injuries like minor cuts
  • Treating Small burns
  • Treating Backache
  • Performing Root canal, BDR
  • Performing X-ray
  • Doing Blood test
  • Diabetes and hepatitis diagnosis

The emergency room can provide all the services provided by primary care and urgent care. Emergency rooms have a large team of doctors and even more advanced machinery ( used in major surgeries like a ventilator). So emergency rooms can provide additional services like

  • Treating patients having a cardiac arrest
  • Performing surgeries
  • Treating patients with single or multiple broken bones
  • Deliveries
  • Infants checkups and their treatments
  • Serious burns
  • Treatment of COVID patients
  • Treating patients who are choking
  • Ulcers
  • Cancer patient’s checkup
  • Chemotherapies


Primary care generally includes the private clinics of doctors. They are open on weekdays from 9-5 and are closed on weekends. On an average basis, the doctor spends 15 minutes on each patient.

Urgent care centers are primarily open during weekdays from 9-5, and they are also open on weekends. the average time spent on a patient is 15-45 minutes.

Emergency rooms are open 24/7. The time spent on an average patient is from 40 minutes to several hours. In case of extreme emergencies, the patient might be admitted for a few days.


The cost of primary care, if the patient visits a general physician, will be in the range of $15-$25. If the doctor treating the patient is a specialist, the cost may rise up to $30-$50. Health insurance plans can partially or fully cover these prices.

The average cost of an urgent care visit is between $ 70-$155. A health insurance plan can help the patient to wholly or partially cover the expense.

The average cost of emergency care ranges from $500-$1500. It can be increased up to several thousand dollars depending upon the severity of the emergency. It can also be covered by health insurance.

Which One To Choose And Why?

The emergency room does provide every treatment provided by primary care or urgent care. Keeping this thing in mind, one would prefer the emergency room. However, urgent care or primary care is there for a reason. In primary care, the patient can be treated in less time by paying less money. The same is the case with urgent care, that in the case of acute emergency, urgent care can treat the patient in a comparatively less time and at a low price ( a little bit higher than the primary care).

Emergency rooms should be visited in the case of fatal emergencies. They take a lot of time and are very expensive( but the treatment is also necessary). If a person with a minor emergency ( which can be treated in urgent care/primary care) visits the emergency room for the treatment, he would have to wait for his turn and will end up paying much money. So it is better to note the severity of the emergency to select the best suitable healthcare service.