You can never predict when an injury or illness will strike. In a perfect world, your primary care doctor is available to treat you when you need immediate help. But sometimes things happens when your doctor is already gone for the day. How do you decide between the emergency room (ER) and convenient care clinics?
Getting sick or hurt can be upsetting, making it difficult to figure out if you need to go to the ER or to Convenient Care. Consider the following when deciding whether you should wait to make an appointment with your regular physician, wait it out at the ER or find the closest Convenient Care.
Know What Can Be Treated
Primary care physicians deal with routine, preventative care. They perform regular wellness visits, help patients manage chronic conditions and stay current with vaccinations.
This type of physician would be your first point of contact for an issue if it is during regular business hours (typically 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). If you mention you are experiencing specific health issues when scheduling the appointment, the office staff will likely do their best to get you in right away.
The types of issues you would discuss with your primary care doctor include cold symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, earaches) and minor injuries such as sprains, infections and migraines.
Convenient care visits should not be used for routine exams. You should go to a Convenient Care facility when your primary care physician’s office is closed but you need medical care fast. The Convenient Care medical team will follow up with your regular primary care physician so they know you have been seen. Often times, the co-pay for Convenient Care is the same as an office visit, rather than the higher out-of-pocket fees charged by urgent care and the emergency room.
The medical team at a Convenient Care facility are equipped to treat minor injuries and illnesses such as vomiting or diarrhea, sports injuries, minor cuts or burns, sprains and mild asthma attacks.
Emergency rooms are located within a hospital, which is equipped to handle the most severe medical cases, often requiring immediate care and a hospital stay. Patients are assessed for the severity of their condition and treated in that order. Emergency rooms should not be used for minor illness or injury that can be treated in an outpatient setting.
Emergency room personnel are trained to handle life-threatening situations that may require X-rays, lab work or even surgery. In an emergency room, you may encounter nurses, technicians, physicians and surgeons depending on your condition, which can include heart attacks, serious head trauma and severe bleeding.
Know Your Wait Time
Decide how serious your condition is and how long you can wait to get treatment. If you don’t require immediate medical attention, you should visit your primary care doctor. If your case is more severe, determine whether you should go to Convenient Care or to the ER.
Convenient Care is a walk-in clinic that treats patients on a first-come, first-serve basis, which may mean a long or short wait time, depending on how many patients were there before you. These services typically have office hours during weekdays and weekends, but are not open 24/7.
The ER takes patients in the order of severity of the condition. Wait times tend to be long for those with minor conditions, which is why it is best to seek out other care options first. Depending on the time of day and how many doctors are on staff, wait times for those with more serious conditions—such as broken bones—may even have to wait a substantial amount of time before being seen.
Understand How Serious Your Symptoms Are
Determining how serious your symptoms are will help you decide where to seek care. Emergency rooms are open all day, every day of the year, while doctor’s offices and Convenient Care clinics are not. Evaluate whether you can wait and how long you can manage your pain or illness.
Fisher-Titus has primary care, several convenient care clinics and our Emergency Room is a Level 3 Trauma Center and an accredited Chest Pain Center and Primary Stroke Center. No matter what type of treatment you need, Fisher-Titus has physicians available. Find a physician at Fisher-Titus today for all your medical needs.