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Convenient Care, Urgent Care, Emergency Care or Virtual Care – What’s the Difference?

Convenient Care, Urgent Care, Emergency Care or Virtual Care – What’s the Difference?


In a world where there’s not enough time in the day to be sick, we find ourselves wanting flexibility and more options for care when illness or injury strikes. But the choices can be confusing – what is the difference between convenient care and urgent care?  Where do you go for an earache, a sprain, or something more serious, such as trouble breathing?  While convenient care, urgent care and the ER aren’t meant to replace visits to your doctor, they are there when you need to see someone during off hours, weekends, or more quickly than going to your physician.

BJC Medical Group recommends contacting your provider first when health concerns arise. Both urgent care and convenient care clinics are walk-in centers that are great alternatives when you aren’t able to see your regular provider or after regular hours.  The wait is typically short, and the cost is less than going to an emergency department.

Convenient care clinics are used to treat minor injuries or illnesses. These clinics are typically staffed with a nurse practitioner or physician assistant. They are less expensive than a visit to an emergency room. They have extended hours, accept walk ins, and are good for minor cases such as:

  • allergies
  • insect bites
  • coughs, colds, flu and fever
  • earaches
  • urinary problems
  • sore throats and strep or mono
  • eye irritation
  • mild skin conditions and rashes

Urgent care clinics are usually larger than convenient care clinics but are still smaller than an emergency room and also have extended hours. They treat more serious health issues that aren’t life threatening and are usually staffed by physicians. Urgent care clinics are not only less expensive than a visit to the ER, but also wait times are usually shorter.

You can visit an urgent care clinic for any issues in the list above, plus:

  • possible broken bones
  • foreign body in the eye
  • open wound
  • wounds needing stitches

An emergency room (ER) is for more serious injuries or illness and are open around-the-clock. For a less severe injury or illness, the wait can be longer than with convenient care or urgent care and the cost higher. Of course, if the condition is life-threatening, such as a heart attack, stroke, or if someone is unresponsive, call 911 immediately.

Use the ER for:

  • trouble breathing
  • chest pain
  • severe allergic reactions
  • severe pain
  • serious injury
  • sudden vision impairment
  • broken bones visible through the skin
  • severe burns
  • fainting
  • poisoning
  • rapid heartbeat

Virtual visits are on-demand, same-day care without leaving home. The visit can be either an e-visit or video visit to evaluate your symptoms. The wait can be 15 minutes to an hour, and the cost is about what you would pay for a doctor’s visit. Your visit will be with a physician, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant that is part of the Virtual Care team. Or, you can meet with your current provider through a scheduled virtual visit. They are available with BJC Medical Group primary care physicians and participating specialists, and availability varies by specialty and office. Hours are from 7 am to 7 pm daily and can be requested through MyChart for users 12 and over. For more information visit

Remember that virtual visits are for common conditions, not for emergency care.

BJC Medical Group offers Medical Arts Convenient Care, where walk-ins are welcome, and no appointments are necessary.

Knowledgeable, compassionate BJC providers are on hand day or night, ready to help with a variety of minor injuries and illnesses. The staff will accommodate patient needs quickly and efficiently. Plus, the co-pay is the same as a primary care visit, which is often less expensive than a visit to an urgent care or emergency room.

For more information, visit

Medical Arts Convenient Care – Farmington, MO

  • Open 8 am – 7 pm M-F
  • 8 am – 6 pm Saturday
  • 8 am – 1 pm Sunday
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