Understanding the role of your primary care physician can help you decide when urgent care is a good option to supplement your care.
Consumers have a lot of choices when seeking healthcare. In-store clinics, concierge services and even tele-health provide an ecosystem of convenient medical possibilities from which to choose. While having an expanded range of healthcare options is great, primary care physicians still play a central role for individuals and families needing ongoing care.
Conversely, urgent care offers convenient medical care – even on evenings and weekends – for those occasional illnesses and injuries that may need to be treated before the doctor can fit you in. Understanding these options provide you with more healthcare choices.
Primary Care Physicians, general practitioners and family physicians provide consistent medical care for adults and kids who need ongoing care over time. For those with medical conditions requiring long-term care like diabetes or chronic asthma; and for families with children requiring regular check-ups and childhood immunizations, a primary care physician is a good option.
Primary Care doctors maintain patient records and detailed medical histories. They often coordinate referrals to specialists if one is needed. Primary care doctors also collaborate with patients – offering education about ways to care for themselves and maintain good overall health.
Urgent Care is a helpful option for illnesses and injuries that may not require prolonged care, such as strep throat or a cut needing stitches. Urgent care providers can also stabilize sudden illnesses or injuries when there isn’t time to set up and appointment with a primary care provider or a specialist for more comprehensive care – a broken leg, for example.
Urgent care providers can treat an extensive range of illnesses and injuries. Some centers even have x-ray and lab facilities on site. And most are open late and on the weekends — offering added convenience when making an appointment with a primary care physician may not be possible. Most urgent care centers can send urgent care records directly to a patient’s primary care physician, or provide the patient with a copy of their medical records upon request.
Both primary care and urgent care providers offer screenings and labs for common conditions. And both can administer certain preventative vaccines like flu or meningitis shots, or offer routine physicals. Many urgent care locations can treat both kids and adults. Some specialized urgent care centers focus solely on children (pediatrics). If you have health insurance be sure to phone ahead to understand if the urgent care center you plan to visit accepts your insurance and determine what your co-pay or deductibles may be.
When the ER is Best
For less serious illnesses and injuries the emergency room can be expensive. The cost of an ER visit starts at about $1,500 with some co-pays as high as $150. The average wait time to be seen in an ER for a non-life threatening condition can be up to 4 hours and the settings are not typically very comfortable. However, if your life is in danger you should go immediately to your nearest emergency room or call 911 as they are the best qualified to address any life-saving care you would need.
Immediately call 911:
- If you are at risk of losing your life, a limb or your vision
- If you have signs of a heart attack or stroke
Now that you understand the difference between primary care, urgent care – you can feel good about making the appropriate decision for your next medical visit.