Experiencing an illness, injury, or sudden onset of symptoms is stressful, and seeking proper medical attention can be critical.
Many patients are unsure exactly where to obtain care, especially when they are sick or hurt in the middle of the night or on a weekend.
Depending on the type of trauma, its severity, and available resources, patients may visit their primary care physician, an urgent care center, or the emergency room.
It is important to understand the capabilities, advantages, and disadvantages of each of these facilities.
Primary Care Physician
For most patients, a primary care physician is the first point of contact for all health-related issues. Primary care providers can provide wellness check-ups, prescribe and refill medications, manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, and treat coughs, colds, and some viruses.
Continuity of care is a significant advantage to seeing your own doctor for a medical issue. He/she knows your history including medications and procedures, unlike an urgent care center or ER.
However, when primary care doctors do not have the resources to diagnose or treat more acute or severe conditions, they will refer patients to the ER.
Urgent Care Center
Urgent care centers are often a good option for minor injuries and illnesses when a patient is unable to see his/her primary care doctor.
These facilities can treat colds, stings, sprains, and other conditions that require little to no follow-up. Their advantages include after-hours availability and more resources such as an X-ray machine.
However, unlike a primary care doctor, urgent care centers only provide episodic care and cannot manage ongoing medical issues. Additionally, they do not have access to a patient’s full medical history.
For acute or potentially fatal illness and injury, patients should go directly to the emergency room. Chest pain, shortness of breath, broken bones, or a suicide attempt are all reasons to seek care at the ER.
Emergency rooms have the most life-saving capabilities compared to other healthcare facilities. If a patient’s medical condition requires surgery or hospitalization, the ER can immediately admit patients for proper treatment.
However, the ER is not able to provide on-going care of chronic conditions like diabetes and asthma. These issues are best managed by a primary care physician.
Furthermore, patients are discouraged from routinely going to the ER for colds or medication refills because they do not have a primary care physician.
If you would like to schedule an exam or consult with Dr. Bruce Rashbaum, please contact Capital Medical Associates today.