It’s a decision that has to be made all the time: you or a family member is ill or injured and you have to make the call to schedule a doctor’s appointment, take a trip to urgent care, or head straight to the emergency room. The doctor may not have available openings for at least a few days, the emergency room is going to be more costly, and you may not even be sure how urgent care fits in between the two. What do you do?
Feeling uncertain about the right type of medical care to seek in a case of illness or injury is very normal. While some obvious cases should go to the emergency room — a child who fell from a tree and has clearly broken their arm — or to the doctor’s office — a rash that appeared a couple of days ago and is starting to itch — others are less clear cut.
In today’s blog from the team of urgent care doctors, nurses, and staff at Medics USA, we will take a look at the differences in care provided at these three varying levels of care and provide some examples of circumstances, illnesses, and injuries that justify trips to each.
If you need urgent care in Washington, D.C., then please visit us at either of our locations. To get started as a new patient or to schedule an appointment, contact us today.
When To Choose Urgent Care
Let’s start by making an important distinction between urgent care and emergency room care. While both sound like expedited care is needed, and both offer exactly that, urgent care facilities are not emergency rooms or trauma centers. They are not equipped to deal with life and limb emergencies, and if you show up to one with a serious condition, you will be directed to the emergency room for your own well-being.
Urgent care centers can provide virtually all of the same services as your primary care doctor’s office can, but they can do it same day and after-hours — options that are often not available through your primary care physician’s clinic.
When you need same day care that shouldn’t wait or when you can’t make an appointment until after normal business hours for whatever reason, urgent care is a good choice for you. Common urgent care-appropriate conditions include:
- Fevers without a rash
- Vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath (not the same as difficult breathing)
- Moderate illness symptoms, like cold or flu
- Minor sprains and strains
- Small cuts (urgent care clinics can provide minor stitching when needed)
Remember, an urgent care clinic is not a replacement for your primary care doctor, but they are a great alternative for getting the help you need when your regular doctor is unavailable.
When To Choose The Emergency Room
Emergency rooms are open and available 24 hours a day and are equipped to handle every possible emergency medical situation or transfer a patient to the hospital for long term care if treatment is needed.
Emergency room visits are typically the most expensive option, but when there is a true emergency that needs to be addressed and it simply cannot wait, the emergency room is the best choice. These types of life and limb situations are sometimes frightfully obvious, but there are others that people underestimate or seek slower care than they should for all the time.
Some of the most important and common reasons to visit an emergency room include:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Weakness/numbness on one side of the body
- Slurred speech
- Broken bones
- Serious burns
- Loss of consciousness
- Head injury
- Cuts on the face
- Cuts that will likely need stitches
- Severe, persistent illness
- Fevers with a rash
- Vaginal bleeding while pregnant
Ultimately, you are the only one who can decide if you feel that a situation is significant enough to take a trip to the emergency room. Remember to trust your gut, and when it comes to your health and the health of those you love, err on the side of caution.
When To Choose Your Primary Care Doctor
Your primary care doctor is a crucial part of your overall health and wellness. Building a relationship with a medical professional who you know, trust, and like — and who is familiar with your medical history and conditions — is the best way to receive the best possible medical care at a fundamental level.
However, your regular doctor isn’t always open for appointments when you would like to — or are able to — see them. Whether you can’t make an appointment during regular business hours or your primary healthcare provider doesn’t have any openings for a couple of days, urgent care clinics like the ones at Medics USA’s Washington, D.C. locations are a great option.
However, for annual checkups, physicals, and all of the other appointments that your doctor’s office can get you in for within a reasonable amount of time, choosing your primary care physician is the right choice.
Schedule An Appointment With Medics USA Today
Schedule an appointment with Medics USA today, or stop by one of our locations for a walk-in appointment.