Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates for UC San Diego Health patients and visitors. Learn More


What's the Difference Between Express Care, Urgent Care and the ER?

When you’re dealing with an injury or illness — whether it’s minor or critical — and want help right away at a walk-in facility, UC San Diego Health has three options for you: Express Care, Urgent Care and ER. If you think you're in a life-threatening situation, call 9-1-1.

When to Go to Express Care

Minor health issues: When you have a common illness or injury, or face a relatively minor situation that can’t wait for an appointment with a primary care provider.

Prompt wellness services: When you want same-day wellness services, such as flu shots or sports physicals.

Save time: Wait times usually shorter than at ER or Urgent Care.

Note:Express Care clinics are staffed by nurse practitioners. X-ray services are available at some locations, but there are no lab services. Co-pays are typically the same as a clinic appointment.

Conditions Treated and Services Offered at Express Care


When to Go to Urgent Care

Non-emergency health problems: When you face a condition that is not life- or limb-threatening, but still requires prompt care within 24 hours.

X-ray and lab services: When you may need diagnostic X-ray and lab services.

Access to physicians: When it's important to have a physician available on site.

Note: Co-pays at Urgent Care clinics are often lower than those for an ER visit but may be higher than a regular clinic visit.

Conditions Treated at Urgent Care


When to Go to ER / Emergency Care

Emergencies: When you have a major, life-threatening injury or a very severe illness that requires immediate attention.

Full array of services: When access to on-site surgical, diagnostic and lab services is important to you.

Access to specialists: When it's important to be seen by an emergency medicine doctor or a specialist.

Note: Co-pays are typically higher for ER services and wait times may be longer.

Conditions and Illnesses Treated in ER