Where to Go When You Need Care

As health care providers, our physicians are committed to getting you the right care you need, at the right time and place. In reality, not every illness or injury requires immediate attention. Jason Ho, MD, a family medicine physician specializing in urgent care, explains how to decide where to go and when.

“Many patients don’t know when to go to the emergency room, to an urgent care clinic, or when to see their doctor,” Dr. Ho says.  He uses timing and severity of condition as the most important factors in deciding what setting is best for your specific illness or injury.

Do you need care now?
When a condition is life-threatening or there is a severe injury, go immediately to the emergency room. Examples include the onset of a stroke or heart attack, an acute illness, a loss of consciousness, compound fracture, trouble breathing, a head injury, huge loss of blood—these are all instances when a trip to a full-service emergency room is critical. A call to 911 to summon paramedics and an ambulance may also be needed in some of these cases.

Later today.
If you have an acute injury such as a broken arm or leg, a laceration requiring stitches, sprains, a persistent fever or rash, or an infection and you can’t be seen in your doctor’s office, urgent care is your go-to. Some physician offices keep a few walk-in appointments available for this purpose. If you are unsure, Dr. Ho suggests calling the closest urgent care clinic and asking the nurse what he or she recommends.

Tomorrow or next week.
If you can wait a few days to see if the issue resolves or the condition is more routine, it is best to schedule an appointment with your regular physician. Many offices keep a few open appointments to see patients on a semi-urgent basis. “If you can not get an appointment you’re your doctor, we would be happy to take care of you in Urgent Care,” says Dr. Ho. Conditions that are more routine include urinary tract infections, a persistent cough, sore throat and colds or flu.

Remember, the different points of care above will vary in cost and convenience, with the emergency room being the most expensive option and has  the lengthiest wait. The next time a medical condition presents itself, decide how urgent it is and you’ll find the best care option for you or your loved ones.

Where to Go When You Need Care

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