In the United States, we are privileged to be part of one of the most expansive medical infrastructures in the world. Yes, there are areas for improvement, but for the most part, no matter what your medical need is, you have at least one source for getting treatment.
In fact, we have so many different types of medical care providers that it can be difficult to identify the best option in every scenario. In some cases, your medical need could be best treated by your family doctor. Sometimes, it is best for you to go to an advanced urgent care clinic to get the care you need as quickly as possible. Sometimes, you should bypass both your general medical care provider and any advanced urgent care centers in your area, and go straight to the emergency room. Here is a quick overview of when to use which type of medical care facility:
- When it is best to seek care with your regular doctor:
Your regular doctor is in the best position to understand your family history and create an ongoing treatment plan for you. This is important for several reasons. First of all, every person is unique, and likewise, the ongoing medical treatment you need is as unique as you are. The ongoing relationship you have with your regular doctor enables them to make a treatment plan that is best suited for your specific needs. Secondly, many medical treatment plans need to be tweaked a little bit to give you the best results. Maybe you need to lower or increase the dosage of your prescription. Maybe you need a new medication altogether. Your regular doctor will meet with you each time you follow-up, and will be best enabled to adjust your treatment as needed.
Skip the doctors if: When you need care sooner than your doctor can give you an appointment, you should go to an advanced urgent care clinic or the emergency room instead. Also, if the medical treatment you need is not offered by a regular doctor, such as an X-ray or intravenous fluids, it’s a good idea to bypass the doctor and go straight to an advanced urgent care.
- When it is best to seek care at an urgent care facility:
Urgent care clinics are a relatively new addition to our medical infrastructure, so somewhat mysterious for many people. By definition, urgent care is meant for medical needs that should be addressed in less than 24 hours (although you can certainly go to urgent care even if it doesn’t). Urgent care can provide treatment on the spot if your regular doctor can’t fit you in, and during hours that your doctor’s office is closed. They also often provide on-site lab testing, administer intravenous fluids, provide fracture care, and can sometimes even fill prescriptions on-site. These services are usually not offered by a regular doctor.
Skip the urgent care if: Urgent care is ideal when you need care before your doctor is able to see you. However, if you need ongoing treatment, the urgent care provider will provide immediate care and instruct you to follow-up with your regular doctor anyways. Also, if your medical need is a life-threatening emergency, you should always bypass urgent care and go straight to the emergency room.
- When it is best to seek care at the emergency room:
The emergency room has one job, but it is very good at what it does. The emergency room is meant for providing immediate care in life-threatening situations. If your medical need falls in that category, you need to go to the emergency room. Skip trying to get an appointment with your regular doctor. Skip wasting time at urgent care. Minutes count in emergency situations, and going straight to the emergency room right away will help you get the care you need as soon as possible.
Skip emergency room if: While emergency rooms are equipped to meet non-emergency needs, it is best to get care with urgent care or regular doctor if your medical need isn’t an emergency. Not only will your medical bill likely be lower, it also reserves emergency room resources for saving lives.
Do you have any other questions about choosing between the regular doctor, emergency room, and urgent care? Please share in the comment section below!