Differences between primary care and emergency rooms

What is the difference between emergency rooms and primary care facilities? Why is it that the preference for emergency rooms has risen in the past few years? Well we reviewed the two and came up with notable differences between the two to help you understand what both entails. Here are the 10 differences between emergency rooms and primary care facilities;

Level of care provided

The major difference between emergency room and primary care is the level of care a patient needs. Primary care is medically significant for patients with non-emergent situations such as slight coughs, cold, migraines, minor burns and rashes. Emergency rooms however, provide care for patients with acute complications and sometimes life threatening medical conditions such as stroke, heart attack, broken bones and tumours. In most cases, you visit emergency rooms to get further scrutiny on a condition whereas primary care offers medication to the conditions without much scrutiny.

Size of the facilities

An emergency room is normally larger in size and capacity compared to the primary care. This is because of the high-tech equipment installed to cater for various ailments and the nature of conditions they encounter on a day to day basis. This might not always be the case though! Some emergency rooms especially the private ones, are very small and don’t have as complex equipment.


The cost of getting medical care in emergency rooms is higher compared to primary care due to their level of operations and the patient needs. You can visit a primary care facility for regular general health check-up. However, this is not the case in emergency rooms where people only go when they have serious conditions and need urgent care.


The other major difference when it comes to emergency rooms and primary care facility, is the likelihood of you being attended to by the same physician. You are also more likely to be attended to by the same physician at a primary care facility whereas in emergency rooms, this is unlikely because the doctors report on a schedule depending on emergencies hence, the chances of you finding the same doctor are close to zero.

Access to medical records

In primary care facilities, your physician has access to your medical records. They are aware of your allergies and how you respond to certain medication, making it very easy for them to detect slight changes in your health. This is not possible in emergency rooms due to the fact that you are attended by different doctors on various occasions.

Waiting periods

Emergency rooms are known for longer waiting periods before one gets medication and for this reason, most of them have introduced the online booking system. In primary care, you do not need to worry about waiting in the queue for long because they do not handle many cases and you also have the option of directly calling your physician to schedule an appointment.

Consultation services

At a primary care facility, you can get health education and have preventive screens done diseases whereas in emergency rooms, the doctors normally concentrate on the situation at hand. In other words, consultation visits are common in primary care and very rare in emergency rooms. This is understandable because the latter is normally abuzz with activity and finding someone to attend to your concerns.


With primary care, you can call to make an appointment and let your health provider know that on such and such a day you will avail yourself for treatment. For emergency rooms on the other hand, you show up when you need to and have to endure until the physician can get to you. There is no way you can call and book because you have no idea when an emergency will strike.

Monitoring of chronic conditions of patients

In primary care facilities, your medical care provider monitors you chronic conditions and keeps you updated on the same. This is partially because they have access to your medical records and partially because they have direct contact with you the patient every time you visit the facility. The emergency room on the other hand the provider may not know the specific chronic conditions that you are suffering from.

Complementary health checkups

In primary care, your provider will check other areas of your health and not specifically the problem that you came in to report on that specific day. This means that he/she will be concerned about how your health is elsewhere. With an emergency room however, the provider will only be concerned about the problem you came in with that day. Because of the amount of people and how busy the emergency rooms are, there is very little time available for the provider to check on the state of health.

Follow up visits

In primary care, there are follow up visits and the provider will help schedule for the same. That means that after treatment, he/she will advise you on the right time to come back for checks and so on. With emergency visits on the other hand you will only be advised to make follow up visits to your primary caregiver.