Emergency Room, Urgent Care, or Primary Care

Learn how to determine the best path to take in the event of an emergency.

As we are about to embark on a new year it’s time to organize your medical records and set health goals. Scheduling an annual visit to your primary care should be at the top of your to-do list. Incorporating a structured exercise and sleep regime is also of utmost importance to enhance your overall health. Of equal importance, you can schedule a consult with one of our nutritionists who will provide you with customized dietary support and guidance. While prioritizing your health is imperative, there are things that you might not anticipate, like an accident.

Do you have a plan in place in the event of a potential emergency?

We’re here to assist you. There are certain guidelines that you can follow to determine the right care you need in the event of an emergency. If an illness or injury occurs, you need to consider the level of severity and the best option for care. If the situation is life-threatening or limb-threatening call 911 or visit your nearest hospital-based emergency room immediately. If you need care and it’s not a serious or life-threatening condition, then it’s possible that a trip to the Emergency Department (ED) may be avoidable.

Did you know that an estimated one-third of all ED visits are considered non-urgent and do not require immediate attention?

In these circumstances, a delay of several hours would not increase the likelihood of an adverse outcome. [1] The majority of non-urgent visits arise from contributing factors such as convenience, patient’s perception of the severity of their urgency, lack of insurance, or not having a regular physician. [2] It’s problematic when non-urgent patients visit the ED, as it can place a strain on the resources and staff needed for critical care patients.

In a non-urgent situation visiting your Primary Care Doctor instead of the ED may be beneficial in many ways. The ED can be a short-term fix for your health and medication needs, whereas your doctor has a record of your medical history and an established medical relationship with you. This is important because the continuity of care with your primary care physician will be more connected than in the ED. Finances also play a role as a treatment in an ED can cost many times more than a visit to your primary care physician.
We want you to be able to understand the options that you can take to help you determine the right path in the event of a medical emergency. Please view the differences of options for care listed below.

Primary Care Doctor:

Your Primary Care Physician is available for urgent and long-term health needs such as in cases of common illnesses and minor injuries. Routine exams and prescription refills are options.
• During regular hours we have appointments open for urgent visits
• 24/7 on-call providers available for guidance
• Out-of-pocket cost is generally the lowest

Urgent Care Center:

The Urgent Care Clinic can address non-life threatening medical problems that can’t wait. This may be a good option if your doctor is unavailable.
• No appointment required
• Evening and weekend hours may be available
• Out of pocket cost is higher than a primary care visit but much less than the ED

Emergency Room:

The best option for urgent immediate care. It’s important to learn the signs of a serious life-threatening emergency.
Although this is not a complete list below are some examples of symptoms that might require immediate attention in an emergency room:
• Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
• Chest pain or pressure
• Sudden or severe pain
• Neurologic symptoms of a stroke
• Uncontrolled bleeding
• Sudden dizziness or weakness
• Changes in mental status
Preparing for a medical emergency can save you time and money. We encourage you to add your emergency contacts to your cell phone, your primary care’s contact information, and the closest urgent care and emergency department to your location.
We’re here to help you and offer same-day appointments. Our providers are on-call to answer specific questions after-hours. We encourage you to discuss with us in advance under what circumstances you should go to the ER.

Please contact us to schedule an appointment and to start the new year feeling your best.

[1] Rocovich C, Patel T. Emergency department visits: Why adults choose the emergency room over a primary care physician visit during regular office hours?. World J Emerg Med. 2012;3(2):91–97. doi:10.5847/wjem.j.1920-8642.2012.02.002

[2] Uscher-Pines L, Pines J, Kellermann A, Gillen E, Mehrotra A. Emergency department visits for nonurgent conditions: systematic literature review. Am J Manag Care. 2013;19(1):47–59.