Family Health

Urgent Care, Emergency Room, or Doctor’s Office: How to Know Where to Go

Feb 26 • 2015

When it comes to getting sick or injured, it doesn’t always happen at a convenient time. Ideally, if you’re experiencing pain or an illness, you would visit your primary care doctor. If your sickness was urgent but not life-threatening, you would stop in to your local urgent care center, and if you were experiencing a life-threatening emergency, you would go to the closest emergency room. Unfortunately, that’s not how things always work out.

The first step to take if you are suffering from a general illness is to call your primary doctor or local hospital. Speak with a nurse or other healthcare professional about your symptoms and get advice over the phone on the best way to handle it. Not only is this free, but it also saves you the hassle of leaving your home to sit in a waiting room.

If a phone call does not suffice, visiting your primary care doctor is the best option for anything that does not require instant attention. Because he knows you personally, your doctor can recommend the best care for you on a more personal level. If your illness can wait until the next day or after the weekend, the doctor’s office is your best option.

For injuries or illnesses that need prompt treatment but do not require a hospital, an urgent care center is the best choice. Many urgent care facilities are open every day, including weekends and holidays, and the wait time is often much less than at a hospital. Conditions like sprains, cuts, minor infections, sore throats, rashes, minor broken bones, x-rays, and laboratory tests can all be addressed at an urgent care.

Finally, the hospital emergency room should only be visited if you have a significant health problem that needs immediate attention. This would include issues like shortness of breath, chest pain, symptoms of heart attack or stroke, uncontrollable bleeding, or major broken bones.

Unless you are experiencing a major health emergency, take your time and evaluate the options available to you for treatment. By doing this, you’ll find yourself with less medical expenses and less time waiting to be seen by a doctor.