Wheelchairs: Mobility Options for You

Choosing Between Primary Care, Urgent Care, And Emergency Room

When you have an illness or injury, you don't always have the energy (or medical expertise) to know just how serious it is. But generally speaking, there are some guidelines that can help you know which is best: making an appointment with your doctor, finding an urgent care clinic, or going to an emergency room.

Primary Care Physician

You may know your primary care physician as your family doctor or general practitioner. Your doctor is generally your first contact if you are sick. If waiting a few days for an appointment is no big deal, then you should try to see your doctor. Because your doctor has a relationship with you and is familiar with your medical history, he or she has an advantage in diagnosing your medical problems.

Chronic conditions should also be treated by a primary care physician. Regular physicals and exams as well as ongoing problems like high blood pressure or diabetes need to be managed over time, and a single urgent or emergency appointment won't be helpful.

Urgent Care Clinic

Urgent care clinics have the advantage of not requiring appointments – if you have a medical problem that needs immediate attention, urgent care is probably what you need. While you will hopefully be seen quickly at the clinic, a good rule of thumb is to use them for problems that require care right away but are not actively getting worse.

For example, a fractured bone can be treated at an urgent care clinic; however, if you have a broken bone that is causing bleeding under the skin or otherwise getting worse, an emergency room is the right choice.

Illnesses that are not chronic can also be treated through urgent care. People with common illnesses such as influenza, pink eye, strep throat, and bronchitis often go to urgent care – the sooner you can get treatment, the more quickly you can begin to get better, so it's good not to have to wait for an appointment.

Do not go to an urgent care clinic if you have a problem that is life-threatening or could result in the loss of a limb or eyesight. These are all considered emergencies; if you go to an urgent care clinic with an emergency, you will end up being sent to an emergency room, and you will have lost vital time in the process.

Emergency Room

If your problem is an emergency, that means that it is life-, limb-, or eyesight-threatening. If you think your condition might be any of those things, you need to go to an emergency room. Injuries that are not stabilized and are getting worse, such as a cut that is bleeding heavily, should also be taken to the emergency room.

And since emergency rooms are open 24 hours a day, they may also be your only option for problems late at night. While urgent care clinics are often open late, be sure to check their hours before making a trip to one that could be closed. To learn more, contact a company like Urgent Care West Maui with any questions or concerns you have.