One of the greatest things about living in the United States is the incredible healthcare system that keeps us healthy. Diseases that were once a death sentence can now be treated and cured because of the modern medicine we have available.
When you are in need of medical attention, one decision you have to make is where to get care. You could make an appointment with your regular family doctors, you could be seen at an urgent care clinic, you could get immediate care from an emergency room physician. Having so many options at our finger tips for good medical care is a good problem to have, but a problem none the less.
Below, we’ve put together an overview of each arm of the medical industry, and which option is best in which circumstance:
- When to See Your Own Doctor
Your own doctor will likely be best equipped to provide ongoing care for you, if your medical need requires it. They also have the greatest grasp of your medical history and will be able to give you a diagnoses, if you have time to wait for an appointment.
However, if your medical need should be attended to before you can get in to see your doctor, you may be better off visiting a walk in clinic. Other times, your lifestyle may make it difficult to visit the doctor during business hours, in these cases, it is better to visit an urgent care that is open during nights and weekends.
Also, there are a lot of common medical services you may need that are not available at a regular doctor’s office. If you need lab work, immediate pharmaceuticals, x-rays or fracture care, or intravenous fluids, you may be better off seeking care from one of the options below.
- When to See an Urgent Care Doctor
If your medical need requires attention within 24 hours, visiting urgent care is your best option. Urgent care facilities are designed to provide any medical service that is not an emergency onsite.
Unlike a regular doctor’s office, urgent care clinics treat patients on a walk in basis, often around the clock, or at least during extended hours and weekends. Additionally, urgent care clinics can provide many medical services that regular offices aren’t equipped to provide such as bone setting (as long as it is not a compound fracture where the bone is protruding from the skin), lab services, and IV fluids; they are able to give you the care you need immediately, while saving you a trip to the emergency room.
Visiting urgent care is usually quicker and less expensive than the emergency room. In fact, some health insurance companies will not pay the added expense of an emergency room visit if the nature of the treatment was not an emergency; in this situation, you would have to pay out of pocket for your care. Meanwhile visiting urgent care is often treated as a regular doctor’s visit and the copays are charged accordingly (check with your insurance provider for your exact urgent care expenses). If your medical issue is not a life threatening situation, you may find that your experience will be better at an urgent care over the emergency room.
- When to Seek Treatment From an Emergency Room Physician
Emergency room physicians are trained to provide medical care in life threatening circumstances. If you circumstances you need care for involve any of the following, you should visit an emergency room physician immediately:
- Bleeding profusely
- Inability to breath
- Pain in the chest (or other indications of a heart attack)
- Symptoms of a stroke – confusion, inability to speak, walk, or use your limbs. Sometimes it occurs on one side of the body.
- Stiffness of the neck or jaw
- Loss of consciousness
This is not an exhaustive list; if your gut is telling your the medical condition or injury you are dealing with could impact the vitality of the patient, get them to an emergency room immediately. Don’t be afraid to use an ambulance in extreme circumstances, so that life saving measures can be administered on the way there.
Do you have any questions regarding which medical facility to go to in which circumstance? Please add them below.