Urgent care vs. the emergency room

Find out where to go for sudden health care needs.

Emergency care can save your life if you’re critically sick or injured. But for less severe complaints, you may get faster and less expensive treatment by heading to an urgent care center.

When to go to urgent care

Urgent care centers treat a wide variety of illnesses and injuries. They are good options when you need same-day care outside of normal office hours or when your doctor is not available.

Common reasons to visit an urgent care center include:

  • Sprains or strains of your arms or legs
  • Broken bones where you don’t see an obvious deformity
  • Headaches that are not typical for you
  • Sore throat, cough, flu or low-grade fevers
  • Minor burns
  • Cuts that may need a few stitches
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Most low back pain

When to go to an emergency room

If an illness or injury is severe or if you need care immediately, the emergency room is the right choice. Emergency rooms are equipped and staffed to handle complex and critical care needs.

Common reasons to visit an emergency room include:

  • Traumatic injuries from a vehicle accident or fall
  • Complex fracture with a bone protruding through the skin
  • Sudden or severe headaches
  • Chest pain or difficulty breathing
  • Significant head injury
  • Suspected heart attack or stroke
  • Poisonings; drug or alcohol issues
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Seizures

What you need to know about urgent care

Within our plan service area

It's important to remember that you must go to an urgent care center within your plan medical group. Be sure to call your primary care physician (PCP) prior to your visit.

If you are unable to reach your PCP during business hours, please call Customer Care at 1-833-346-4322. Outside of business hours and 24 hours on weekends, please call Sharp Nurse Connection® at 1-833-346-4322.

Outside our plan service area

You can visit a convenient urgent care center near you. After receiving urgent care services, your PCP may want to see you when you return.

Sharp Direct Advantage is offered by Sharp Health Plan. Sharp Health Plan is an HMO with a Medicare contract. Enrollment with Sharp Health Plan depends on contract renewal. Read the full disclaimer.