What Is the Difference Between a Freestanding ER and Urgent Care Center?

Freestanding emergency rooms are altering the way Texas and the rest of the country care for their patient’s health. They provide patients with more options for finding acute care because they provide greater convenience and easier access. Despite their increasing popularity, there are numerous misconceptions about them. For example, many individuals believe that freestanding ERs are the same as urgent care centers. It’s past time to debunk that notion.

Understand the gap between Urgent Care Centers and Emergency Rooms

Healthcare management and practitioners have perceived a difference between urgent care and emergency rooms. Before the advent of freestanding emergency rooms, patients had only two options: travel to a hospital and wait in a large queue to see a rushed doctor, or go to an urgent care clinic and risk not receiving the essential treatment.

People in dangerous, acute conditions and those needing assistance after hours had only one option: go to a hospital and wait in a huge line to see a rushing doctor. As a result, independent emergency rooms are required.

Contrast between Freestanding ERs and Urgent Care Centers

These more significant criteria are what distinguishes freestanding emergency rooms from urgent care facilities. Freestanding emergency rooms include all of the capabilities of a properly equipped hospital emergency room. They offer the same degree of care, the same level of quality of care, and the same 24-hour access.

Urgent care facilities do not. At night, they shut their doors. Rather than ER-trained doctors and nurses, they are frequently staffed by physician assistants and nursing assistants. They often lack advanced imaging technologies such as CT scans, x-rays, and ultrasound technology. They rarely carry medications used to treat life-threatening diseases. Overall, they provide limited diagnoses, limited therapy, and limited services.

Urgent care centers can do the following:

  • Patients are seen during the day and occasionally into the early hours of the morning.
  • Diagnose common medical disorders that do not necessitate the use of imaging technology.
  • Treat minor injuries and diseases that do not necessitate the services of a doctor.

Freestanding Emergency Rooms can do the following:

  • The Emergency Center can see patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
  • Diagnose and treat a wide range of medical disorders, from minor to life-threatening.
  • Collect CT, x-ray, and ultrasound images.
  • Give immediate life-saving care.
  • Provide 24-hour care from credentialed ICU and ER physicians.
  • Give patients several days’ worth of medications, so they don’t have to stop at the drugstore on their way home.

What about the charges?

Another widespread misunderstanding about cost is that it is fixed. People sometimes confuse freestanding ERs and urgent care facilities, leading them to think that a freestanding ER must be considerably more expensive than an urgent care facility. The truth is that urgent care centers can charge less for the services they provide. The rationale is simple: they have lower overhead and operating expenses due to limited operation hours, minimal physician resource availability, no expensive imaging equipment, and fewer prescription drugs to offer.

Patients with severe medical conditions may incur double fees if they are transported to a nearby hospital because the urgent care center is unable to meet their needs. Because stand-alone ERs provide the same level of treatment as hospital ERs, their fees are comparable, if not somewhat lower. The good news is that most private insurance policies are accepted by hospitals such as the Emergency Center in Texas. Freestanding ERs do not take Medicaid, Medicare, Tricare, or any government insurances at this time. Any patient with these types of insurance will not be turned away; however, the charges will be billed at a reduced self-pay rate.

It all comes down to the amount of care offered at the end of the day. Freestanding emergency rooms offer more inclusive services than urgent care centers. The prices reflect this reality.

Benefits of Freestanding ER vs Urgent Care

Advantages of an Urgent Care Center:

  • Reduced wait times.
  • Lower copays are due in advance.
  • Certain prescription drugs.
  • Minor ailments can be treated during office hours.

The Advantages of Using an Emergency Center:

  • Reduced wait times.
  • 24/7 availability.
  • Licensed emergency room physicians.
  • RNs with ICU and ER experience.
  • A wide range of prescription drugs is available.
  • Comprehensive in-house lab services.
  • Qualified X-ray technologists.
  • Diagnostic imaging at the cutting edge.
  • Patients can receive follow-up telemedicine services.
  • Care for mild and significant conditions is available at any time.

When and where to Go

In other circumstances, such as when a person has a minor cut or illness, an urgent care center may be the best option. Serious issues necessitate more specialized attention. Going to an urgent care center for such an emergency can be time-consuming and perhaps risky.

When you should go to urgent care center:

  • You’ve suffered a minor injury or illness (e.g., cuts, bruises, headaches, allergies)
  • During business hours, you have moderate symptoms (such as a sore throat, cold symptoms, or a fever).
  • You require low-cost health care.
  • You have mild to moderate symptoms and use government insurance.

When you should go to a Freestanding ER:

  • You have a possibly life-threatening medical condition (e.g., heart attack, stroke, seizure, fractures, head injuries, anaphylactic shock, etc.)
  • You’re having mild to severe symptoms at night or on weekends (e.g., strep throat, fever, bronchitis, pneumonia, animal bites, broken bones, etc.)
  • You require immediate medical attention.
  • You require prompt access to high-quality care.

When you should go to a traditional ER, you should:

  • You have potentially dangerous symptoms and don’t mind waiting to see a doctor.
  • You must be hospitalized.
  • You require emergent surgery.
  • You have moderate to severe symptoms and use government insurance.

Improving Health Care in the United States

The need to relieve the overcrowded ER system is the motivating force behind the concept of a freestanding emergency department. The average emergency department is crowded. Long queues form for patients to see a doctor, a nurse, or even a nurse’s aide. Urgent care facilities cannot serve as stand-ins for full-fledged emergency rooms. They do not deliver the necessary diagnostics and therapies.

Freestanding ERs provide the same quality of care as hospitals, but without a lengthy wait. They expedite treatment. They provide patients with more options and, as a result, more control over their healthcare. They also serve to reduce the pressure on local hospital ERs and urgent care centers by offering an option to patients who would otherwise visit the exact location at the same time.

That’s good for everyone- people with serious illnesses who require immediate treatment who don’t want to wait for hours, physicians who are pressed for time and unable to provide proper care to each of their patients, and administrative staff dealing with an increasingly unsustainable workload. Freestanding ERs are helping to enhance health care in the United States.

Find a Freestanding Emergency Room in Texas

In Texas, the Emergency Center maintains a freestanding emergency department. Our skilled, licensed physicians and registered nurses can see, diagnose, and treat patients in a fraction of the time it takes others. The Emergency room facility is more general than an urgent care center and more effective than a hospital-affiliated emergency room. If you or someone you know requires immediate critical care, get to a freestanding emergency department as quickly as possible.

Freestanding emergency rooms have become widely popular especially in Texas because it increases the access of healthcare to communities. Freestanding ERs provide a much-needed resource to communities but undoubtedly emergency room services are tricky to bill and to get maximum reimbursement.

Right Medical Billing provides emergency room billing services to healthcare industry all around the USA.

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Written by: Kaynat Ishfaq

Author has been writing from last 4 years in Healthcare and medical billing field.





medical billing, medical billing and coding, revenue cycle management, accounts receivable recovery, free-standing er billing, free-standing emergency room, out of network negotiations, prior authorizations

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