The American health infrastructure is one of the best in the entire world. We have the ability to get treatment for any kind of health condition or injury immediately, from our choice of physicians, specialists, or clinics.
However, the wide ranging options that you have to seek medical care when you are sick or injured might make it overwhelming; it’s hard to know the right option for each particular health issue. When faced with an illness or injury, you can make an appointment with your own family doctor. You can get immediate treatment at an urgent care facility. Or you can visit an emergency walk in clinic.
Although it would be impossible for us to cover all of the medical conditions that might arise and where to seek treatment, here is a quick overview:
Visiting Your Regular Doctor
- When Making an Appointment With Your Own Doctor is Best
Your own doctor has the best understanding of your background and medical history. If your medical issue is not urgent, and will require follow-up visits, your own doctor is your best course of action.
In some cases, if you seek treatment at an urgent care of emergency walk in clinic, it’s a good idea to follow-up with your doctor, so that they are apprised of the situation and take it into consideration with future treatments. Most doctors will request the medical records from your urgent care or emergency walk in clinic visit be sent to them; having comprehensive records of your medical history is important for treating you holistically.
- When to Skip the Doctor
If your medical condition is creating substantial discomfort and getting treatment within 24 hours is advisable, it’s often a good idea to bypass your doctor’s (unless they have a last minute appointment available). Many common illnesses can easily be treated with a round of antibiotics, but your doctor can only see you Monday through Friday, during business hours to give you that prescription. Unfortunately, our health doesn’t operate on business hours.
Going to Urgent Care
- When It’s Best to Go to Urgent Care
As we mentioned, when aren’t able to get an immediate appointment with your own doctor, urgent care is your best option. The “official” function of urgent care is to provide medical treatment to patients who need care within 24 hours; however, in reality, they serve far more of a purpose than that.
Urgent care can provide more medical services that your own doctor offers, but on a walk in basis. If your lifestyle makes it difficult to get in to your own doctor during their business hours, you can usually get treatment from an urgent care around your own convenience; during nights and weekends. Additionally, they can provide services your doctor probably does not offer, such as fracture care, IV fluids, and lab services.
- When to Skip Urgent Care
Do not go to urgent care if the medical issue you have is life threatening. In these circumstances, go straight to an emergency walk in clinic.
Visiting the Emergency Room
- When It’s Best to Go to the Emergency Room
The emergency room serves one purpose, but that function is critical: to treat life threatening injuries and illnesses. If you are bleeding profusely, aren’t able to breath, experiencing heart attack symptoms, potentially suffered a stroke, or sustained a head or neck injury, you should bypass the doctors or urgent care and go straight to the emergency room. If necessary, call an ambulance, so that life saving measures can be administered en route.
- When to Skip the Emergency Room
The emergency room should be reserved for life threatening circumstances. It is important to recognize this, as visiting the ER for an issue that is not an emergency ties up ER resources that need to be available for saving lives. Not only for the sake of other patients, but using the ER for non-emergencies costs more to you than going to the urgent care or your regular doctor, as hospital surcharges apply. Also, you can usually get care for non-life threatening conditions faster at an urgent care or physician’s office.
Do you have other questions about when to visit the doctor’s office, urgent care, and emergency room? Please share them below.
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