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Where to Seek Care: Your Provider’s Office vs. Urgent Care vs. the ER

Sep 22 2020
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Back in the day, there were two main places to receive medical care: a family doctor or a hospital emergency room. Now, there are three: urgent care facilities have also been added into the mix.

It is important to know you don’t always need to go to the emergency room for something that your primary care provider or urgent care could help you with. To help you save money, time and frustration, we’ve broken down what ailments can be treated at which location.

See your primary care provider when…

A non-emergency situation that still needs to be taken care of can most of the time be treated by your primary care provider. Call them, schedule a quick appoint or start an Evisit with them.

But what if your primary care provider is not in the office that day? In that situation, you have one of two options:

  • See if your primary care provider offers and is available for a virtual visit. Also, be sure to check that this benefit is covered by your insurance.
  • Your next option is to visit an urgent care facility.

Head to an urgent care clinic when…

These facilities typically operate separately but are part of a hospital. An emergency room visit is more expensive than an urgent care one. These clinics are perfect when you need quick treatment for a non-life-threatening condition.

Head over to your local urgent care clinic if you need the following treated:

  • Migraine headaches
  • Ongoing diarrhea
  • Strep throat
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Asthma attacks
  • Ear infections
  • Animal bites
  • Flu symptoms
  • Joint and back pain
  • Muscle sprains and strains
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Second-degree burns

Drive to the emergency room or call 911 when…

The emergency department at a hospital provides immediate treatment for life-threatening medical conditions. If you head to your local emergency room for a minor health issue without calling your primary care provider first, it will often be a waste of your money and your time. However, some situations can be tricky, and you may still have questions regarding where to go.

For burns

With burns it depends how deep they go. Have you heard of the different degrees of burns before? If not, here’s a guide:

  • First-degree burn: Can usually handle this at home, and most of the time involve a sunburn.
  • Second-degree burn: Affects the dermal layer of your skin, often involving boiling water. Typically can be treated at home or at an urgent care center.
  • Third- and fourth-degree burns: Serious burns, ones that go much deeper into layers of skin and tissue. These are very painful and need medical attention right way.

For a broken bone

It all depends what bone is broken. If it is a foot, hand, wrist or ankle, an urgent care center should be able to treat you. However, for broken bones in your face or larger bones in your body you should head to the ER. Sometimes there they will have a specialist available to help treat the problem quickly, which is not the case at urgent care.

For a heart attack or stroke symptoms

Always go to the ER! Even if it turns out to be gas or acid reflux, you should immediately head to the hospital if you feel like you’re having a heart attack or stroke.

These serious symptoms include:

  • Stroke: Speech difficulty, vision problems, drooping face, arm weakness and balance issues
  • Heart attack: Chest discomfort and pain, shortness of breath, nausea and cold sweats

Find a Bon Secours primary care provider near you today.


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Taylor Hansen

It's good to know that an urgent care clinic can help treat any burns or strep throat. Over the past week, my throat has been hurting and I lost my voice this morning. I'll be sure to head to urgent care to make sure it's not strep throat or something else.
September 28th, 2020 | 2:08pm

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