Where should I go when I need care?

Safety | Wellness | August 23, 2017
Doctor's office? Urgent care? Emergency room? Here's a quick guide to help you choose what's best for a given situation.
A coalition of hospital and healthcare providers created this simple guide to help you decide the best place to go when you or a loved one needs care:
 

Doctor’s office or clinic

The best place to get care is usually your regular healthcare provider’s office or clinic. You should make an appointment with your doctor for:

  • Common illnesses, such as colds, flu, earaches, sore throats, migraines, fever, and rashes
  • Minor injuries, such as sprains, back pain, minor cuts and burns, minor broken bones, or minor eye injuries
  • Physicals, prescription refills, vaccinations, and screenings

Urgent care clinics

When your doctor is not available, urgent care clinics provide attention for non-life-threatening medical problems or problems that could become worse if you wait. This includes:

  • Common illnesses, such as colds, the flu, earaches, sore throats, migraines, fever, and rashes
  • Minor injuries, such as sprains, back pain, minor cuts and burns, minor broken bones, and minor eye injuries

Hospital emergency rooms (ERs)

ERs are for emergencies. You should use a hospital ER only for very serious or life-threatening problems. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, call 911 or get to your nearest hospital ER:

  • Chest pain or severe abdominal pain
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Numbness in the face, arm, or leg
  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Severe burns, deep cuts, or bleeding that won’t stop
  • Sudden blurred vision, dizziness, weakness, or loss of coordination/balance
  • Sudden, severe headache (not a migraine); seizures; or high fever
Hey, I was here first! When you visit an emergency department, it can be frustrating to wait while you watch others receiving treatment before you.  Because a person’s illness or injury is not always obvious, it may look like we’re playing favorites. We promise, we’re not!  Emergency visits are evaluated based on the risk to life or limb. If someone with a more serious, life-threatening condition arrives after you, they may indeed see the doctor sooner.
 
Next time you need care, use the handy guide above to help you choose the most appropriate place for care.