Difference Between Emergency Room and Urgent Care


It can be difficult to know what to do when you sustain an injury or develop significant symptoms of an illness when your regular medical clinic is closed. You may head to the Emergency Department at UPMC Western Maryland in this situation because you feel like you can’t wait for treatment until you can see your regular doctor. After all, it could be Friday night and your clinic won’t be open again until Monday morning. You might dread going because your insurance charges a high copay and you know there is often a long wait for service.

While visiting the WMHS Emergency Department might truly be the only option for some types of illnesses and injuries, others are better suited for our Urgent Care Centers located in Frostburg, Maryland; Cumberland, Maryland or McHenry, Maryland. Each center is open seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. to provide care when you cannot get in for an appointment with your regular provider.

Conditions Treated at Urgent Care vs. a Hospital Emergency Room

Generally speaking, urgent care is the better choice when you or a family member has a minor injury or symptoms of an illness that are not life-threatening.

When to go to Urgent Care:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Allergies
  • Animal or insect bites
  • Back pain if it’s mild to moderate
  • Breathing difficulty, including mild to moderate asthma
  • Broken bones or sprains
  • Bronchitis
  • Colds
  • Cuts that may require stitches
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Ear infection
  • Fever or flu
  • Urinary tract infection

Illness symptoms and injuries that are more appropriate for the emergency room include:

  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Patient is unconscious
  • Poisoning
  • Rash or high fever, especially if the patient is a child
  • Recurring vomiting
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Severe chest pain
  • Severe eye injury
  • Severe head injury
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Sudden paralysis
  • Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy

If you don’t see your condition on this list or you still feel uncertain about where you should seek care, you are welcome to call the UPMC Western Maryland Emergency Department for further guidance at 240-964-1200.

Statistics on Emergency Room Visits

According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 136.9 million Americans visit a hospital emergency department each year. That is nearly 44 percent of the population. Only nine percent of these visits result in a hospital admission. This gives weight to the belief that a large percentage of emergency department visits are avoidable if the patient has an alternate form of care available. If your condition isn’t life-threatening, waiting until your doctor is available or one of the UPMC Western Maryland Urgent Care Centers are open to receive treatment can save you both time and money.

Wait Time Differences

The Urgent Care Association of America reports that most patients are in and out of an urgent care in less than an hour. This includes check-in, wait time, and treatment time. Most people who visit a hospital emergency department and don’t get admitted can expect to spend a minimum of two to three hours before receiving a discharge to go home. Keep in mind that the faster you receive treatment, the faster you can start to feel better.

Urgent Care Contact Information

If you have additional questions about urgent care, please contact your closest facility.

  • Cumberland: 240-964-9300
  • Frostburg: 301-689-3229
  • McHenry: 240-488-4139

We appreciate you choosing UPMC Western Maryland for your healthcare needs.