What's the Difference?

Independent ER vs. Hospital ER and Urgent Care

What's the Difference?

Independent ER vs. Hospital ER and Urgent Care

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What’s the Difference? We are often asked what the difference is between the services we offer and those provided by hospital emergency rooms, and whether there is a cost difference between the two. There seems to be a lot of misinformation and confusion going around, which is understandable. After all, independent emergency centers in Texas haven’t been around that long. Worry not, the staff at Altus Emergency Centers is here to help. We love to answer questions! It’s one of our specialties, so let’s get started!

What is an Independent ER?

The Texas Health and Human Services define independent emergency medical (also known as Freestanding ER or stand-alone ER) care facilities as “A facility that is structurally separate and distinct from a hospital and which receives an individual and provides emergency care”.

This simply means that for us to operate as a stand alone emergency room, we must be licensed by the state of Texas and comply with a strict set of rules and standards of care, just as hospital emergency rooms. In other words, we are held to the same standards of patient care as a hospital run emergency department.

Differences Between Hospital ER and Independent ER

Now that you know that all Altus Emergency Centers are accredited, licensed, and regulated the same as hospital ER’s, you are probably wondering how are they different?

During an Emergency, Seconds Matter.

Wait Times

It is no secret that hospital emergency departments are in crisis. They are often overcrowded and severely understaffed. Hospital ER’s rely on a process known as triage to sort the severity of the injured or health condition of a patient. For example, a patient who shows signs of a heart attack will have priority and receive medical treatment before a patient with a non-exposed bone fracture.

According to the latest data published in February of 2018 by ProPublica, patients visiting a hospital emergency room in Texas wait 19 minutes, on average, to be seen by a doctor, and patients with broken bones wait 46 minutes, on average, to receive pain medication.

By contrast Altus Emergency Centers, as an independent ER has no wait times. Our doctors are available to see all patients immediately. This means patients get to spend more time interacting directly with our ER trained physicians. In addition, the wait time to undergo diagnostic testing such as x-rays, laboratory tests, ultrasounds, CT Scans, and EKG’s are also much shorter, and there is no wait time, in most cases.

Waiting room in Altus Waxahachie

Pediatric Emergency Care

Separate Pediatric ER

Although hospital ER’s have the capability of treating pediatric emergencies, few have dedicated pediatric exam rooms, like Altus ER.

Having the ability to fully accommodate children physically and emotionally serves the entire well-being of the child. This is especially important for children visiting the emergency room, which can be a traumatic experience. Facilities, like Altus ER, that have exam rooms specifically designed to address what young patients see and feel, while receiving treatment, helps make the experience less traumatic and much more pleasant. This pediatric exam rooms paired with physicians and a medical team accustom to dealing with injured or ill children makes for a quick and much more comfortable visit.

Pediatric Emergency room

The Technological Edge

Cutting Edge Diagnostic Technology

Don’t get us wrong, hospital ER’s are extremely well equipped, however, due to funding issues, and the high volume of usage, some of the equipment may not be as new or well-maintained as the diagnostic machines at our centers.

We go to great lengths to ensure we have the best and most accurate diagnostic technology available. Newer technologies provide better imaging, more accurate results in less time, and in an emergency, every minute counts.

X-Ray Room door sign

Freestanding ER vs. Urgent Care
What is the Difference Between Urgent Care Clinics and ER’s?

When It’s More Than Urgent – Independent Emergency Centers

Hours of Operation:

Urgent Cares: Most urgent care clinics close between 7 and 9 pm. They rarely open during the weekend or on holidays.

Independent ERs: On the other hand, stand-alone ER’s, are open 24/7 every day of the year.


Urgent Cares: Urgent care facilities are not equipped to treat life-threatening injuries or illnesses. The reason for this is that urgent care clinics have restricted diagnostic equipment and they are not required to have a doctor on site. Most patients are treated by advanced nurses.

Independent ERs: In contrast, stand alone ER’s are required by law to have a designated medical director, in addition to being constantly staffed by an on-site emergency trained physician and nurses.

medical staff setting up IV fluids

Cost vs. Quality Are Independent Emergency Centers More Expensive Than Hospital ER’s?

This is perhaps the one issue where most patients have been misinformed. The reality is there is no price difference between the services provided by an independent ER vs. a hospital ER. Altus Emergency Centers even welcomes the same private medical insurance companies as hospital ERs. However, out-of-pocket rates and terms are determined by your previously selected insurance plan.

Pricewise there is no difference, the differences are found in the quality of care, convenience, and shortened wait, treatment, and discharge times. State insurance law requires insurance to pay independent ER’s the same as a hospital ER.

Altus Emergency offers special customer care billing management services through Patient Advocate:

  • At Altus Emergency we have the ability to establish payment plans.
  • Within these payment plans, Altus Emergency has the ability to consider financial hardships.
  •  Altus Emergency offers a special customer care service, Patient Advocate. We will work with the insurance company for complete payment.

If you ever find yourself in a medical emergency, you need to ask yourself if you would rather wait for treatment in a hospital ER or receive immediate life-saving medical attention at one of Altus Emergency Centers.