Tuesday, February 26, 2019 6:14 PM

Should I go to the Emergency Room, an Urgent Care or my Primary Care Physician?

On any given day, Central Valley emergency departments are overcrowded with patients seeking care. Many residents race to the emergency department with the flu or colds instead of visiting a primary care physician or an urgent care.

There’s so much confusion about when it’s best to choose the emergency room, an urgent care clinic or your primary care physician.

Watch this short video to better understand why emergency rooms are always crowded and how emergency rooms operate.


When to Visit a Primary Care Physician

With less urgent medical problems or routine check-ups, it’s always good to check in with your primary care physician and seek treatment with your provider. While most healthy adults only need to see their primary care physician once a year, others with chronic medical needs or ongoing concerns should see their doctor more often. 

For example, a patient with asthma might need to be monitored on a regular basis to keep from having attacks.  Or, if your blood pressure is high or you need to get your glucose levels under control, you’d most likely have to see the doctor more often to monitor progress. 

After your next visit make sure you ask your physician when your next appointment should be scheduled: Two weeks?  Two months? Or for your next annual visit?

When to Visit an Urgent Care Clinic

If the problem isn’t life threatening you can go to an Urgent Care Clinic, which usually has extended evening and weekend hours past that of your regular physician’s office. 

Common reasons to go to an urgent care include:

  • Common illnesses like colds and the flu

  • Earaches

  • Migraines

  • Minor cuts

  • Sprains

  • Rashes 


When to Visit an Emergency Room

Community Regional Medical Center’s emergency medicine physician Jessica Mason says there are many reasons to come to the emergency room.

“If patients are ever unsure if they are having an emergency they should not hesitate to come in and let us help figure that out,” she said. “We would never want to discourage someone from coming to the Emergency Department who is concerned they are having a medical emergency.” 

Call 911 or go to the emergency room if you:

  • Have difficulty breathing, chest, arm or jaw pain 

  • Experience a severe burn or electric shock

  • Experience seizures or a head injury where you are confused or fainting

  • Have deep wounds with heavy bleeding

  • Are dealing with a severe allergic reaction

  • Have a broken bone 

  • Are concerned about possible poisoning

Dr. Mason says if you’re not sure, don’t take a chance … call 911 if it’s urgent or stop by an emergency room just to be safe. 

Most Importantly, Plan Ahead!

It’s really best to plan ahead before you have a medical problem.  You should call your health insurance to check your options and the costs for these choices before you need to use them.

Put these phone numbers in your phone or a convenient place for quick reference:

  • Your primary care physician

  • Closest emergency department in your area

  • Urgent Care Clinic near your home

  • Walk In Clinic in your area

  • Telephone physician advice hotline

Knowing your options in advance can help get you the right care at the right place or even save you time or money.