InstaCare vs ER

By Ryan Davis, MD

When you know you need medical attention right away, you’ll have to decide between visiting an InstaCare or an emergency room (ER). Choosing the right place – and the right way to get there – will help you get the most appropriate care possible.

InstaCare vs ER - make the best choice for you

When to Visit InstaCare

If you have a simple medical problem that can't wait until an appointment with your doctor, then an InstaCare is a good resource. InstaCare facilities treat non-life-threatening problems that can be followed-up with your regular doctor. Most are open in the evening and weekends, but not overnight. 

For example, you should visit an InstaCare when you experience:

  • Fever
  • Cold or flu symptoms
  • Simple cuts or abrasions
  • Earaches
  • Minor infections
  • Sprains or strains
  • Rashes

When to Visit the ER

When your condition is serious or life-threatening, you should visit the emergency room. If you’re unsure if you’re having an emergency, come to the ER and have a doctor examine you. The ER is always open and is staffed by specialized physicians trained to take care of every emergency. Once your medical problem is stabilized, ongoing care is either arranged through hospitalization or follow-up with outpatient physicians. 

You should visit the ER when you experience:

  • Chest or upper abdominal pain or pressure
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Any sudden or severe pain
  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sudden fainting, dizziness, weakness, difficulty speaking, or changes in vision
  • Changes in mental status, or confusion
  • Intense or persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Unusual abdominal pain
  • Suicidal thoughts

When to Call an Ambulance

In some situations, you may not be able to safely drive yourself or even someone else to the ER. The injury may require immediate care. This is when you need to call an ambulance. If you’re ever unsure about driving, call the ambulance. For example, you should call an ambulance when:

  • The person needs immediate attention from a medical professional (there is uncontrolled bleeding, etc.)
  • There are any signs of heart attack or stroke
  • Moving the injured person would cause further injury
  • Traffic or weather conditions would delay your arrival at the hospital
  • The condition is immediately life-threatening or could become life-threatening on the way to the hospital
  • The condition could permanently debilitate the injured person
  • You cannot safely drive (you may lose consciousness, etc.)

Both an InstaCare and an emergency room play a vital role in providing urgent healthcare services. Knowing which facility to choose will lead to the right treatment option in an appropriate and efficient manner, which is good for everyone involved.