Primary Care, Urgent Care, or ER? Where to Seek Care

October 10, 2023 7:39 am Published by

The advent of more urgent care centers has been a boon for busy hospital emergency rooms and patients. It relieves the emergency room from seeing less-than-serious conditions and provides patients with more timely diagnosis and treatment. The question remains: When to go to your primary care physician, an urgent care center, or the emergency room?

Our Care Centers

What Are The Real Differences?Doctor in front of ER.

The main differences between Primary Care, Urgent Care, and an ER involve the services provided, the wait time, and the cost.

If you are ill, consider these three before you decide where to go. Of course, the most important one is the services. Are you critical? Are you in severe pain? Are your symptoms life-threatening? The answers to those questions should determine your decision. Let’s get more specific.

Main Purposes of Primary Care

Your primary care physician (PCP) is the person who oversees your general health. You come to rely on and trust them. Unless you move away or your insurance changes, most adults remain with their primary care provider.

Your PCP gets to know you and monitors your general health. They diagnose and treat your illnesses, provide vaccines, and coordinate specialist referrals.

They care for anything, including sprains, pulled muscles, sore throats, flu, chronic diseases like diabetes, and sinus infections.

Your primary care physician can handle all concerns that are not emergencies or need immediate care. Visiting the same doctor for all your medical needs gives them a better picture of your health, which equates to a consistent and stable level of care.

What Is A True Emergency?

The purpose of a hospital emergency room is to save lives. With the increase in urgent care facilities, only the severe cases should go to an ER unless you have no choice. Many Americans visit the emergency room, and many of those visits are unnecessary. The CDC tells us that 30% of ER visits are non-urgent.

You will be triaged at a hospital ER, meaning a nurse will determine the urgency. That will dictate how long you will wait.

If you are having a heart attack or a stroke, you must get immediate care, so call 911 or go directly to an ER.

Some other situations that necessitate an ER visit include seizures, a high fever that won’t break, injury to the neck or spine, poisoning, head injury, a deep wound, drug overdose, burns, electric shock, bleeding that won’t stop, broken bone with punctured skin, vomiting blood, unconsciousness, severe allergic reaction, breathing problems.

The following include some instances where a visit to the ER is critical:

1.  Chest pain

2. Trouble breathing or speaking.

3. Paralysis

4. New onset confusion

5. Head or back injuries

6. Consistent bleeding or vomiting

7. Loss of consciousness

8. Sudden, severe pain, such as a headache or stomach ache

9. Choking

10. Poisoning

11. Major burns and cuts

12. Broken bones

13. Any injury that is limb or life-threatening

Express Care Visits

A visit to an express care location in Corinth is recommended when you cannot get an appointment with your family doctor and your symptoms are non-life-threatening. Express care centers offer extended hours and provide more immediate care.

Occasions and symptoms include fever and colds, cough and sore throat, cuts that require stitches, earaches, UTI, diarrhea and stomach pain, flu symptoms, minor burns, dehydration, sprains and strains, small cuts, a mild asthma attack, animal bites, plus others.

If the urgent care provider thinks your symptoms are more serious, they will direct you to the ER.

If you, or someone you love, is ill or has a minor injury, don’t wait in an emergency room for hours.

Deciding Where to Go

If you are experiencing symptoms and need care, contact your primary care provider first. If you need more immediate care and cannot visit your primary care provider, a visit to urgent care may be a great option. If you are experiencing a life-threatening situation or are experiencing any of the more severe symptoms listed above, visit the ER.

This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center