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Where should I go: physician office, urgent care or emergency department?

by | May 7, 2020 | Uncategorized

where to go for care

“It was a sunny afternoon, and my husband and I were in the backyard working on a few projects we had been putting off. I was weeding the garden and he was building a deck for our daughters’ playhouse. As I bent down to grab a few weeds, I heard my husband very calmly say, “Uh oh.”

I assumed he had cut a board too short. He slowly walked towards me and said, “I should probably go to the doctor.” When I looked up I saw that he had sliced a four-inch gash into his thigh with the circular saw.

I immediately jumped into mom mode. I got a towel and tightly wrapped it around his leg and scooped up our daughters and buckled them into their car seats.

At that moment, I realized I didn’t know where to go. Was it bad enough to take him to the emergency room? Would our physician’s office be able to handle it? We decided that our local urgent care office was the best choice, and they were able to stitch him up and send us home in a very short time.

That was a scary experience for our family, but we were so thankful to have so many options of care to choose from.” -Paige L.

Where should you go?

According to an article by U.S. News and World Report, choosing where to receive care can be a complicated decision.

The blog quoted Dr. Douglas Kupas, an emergency physician in Danville, Pennsylvania.Emergency Department

“There are several factors you need to take into consideration when choosing where to go for health care in various situations,” Dr. Kupas said. “The most important is the type of injury or illness that you have, its severity and whether it fits with the resources of the site.”

Dr. Kupas said if you are not certain, it’s usually best to play it safe and visit the emergency department.

“Particularly in heart attacks and strokes, time is of the essence, and delaying treatment can lead to worse outcomes.”

Here are some things to consider when choosing a site of care.

Severity of injury or illness

Physician offices know your medical history and are good for managing non-severe illnesses and infections and chronic conditions. They are not equipped to handle acute conditions, however, and cannot provide care as quickly as urgent care or emergency departments.

alliance express urgent careUrgent care offices are able handle acute issues better than physicians offices, but not as prepared to handle severe injuries and illnesses as emergency departments. Urgent care offices are best for nausea, insect bites and stings, sprains and strains, coughs and colds, urinary tract infections or other infections, fever, minor wounds, etc.. These offices are also great options for school and work physicals, stitches, and some x-rays.

Emergency departments offer the most resources and can handle nearly any medical problem. Most emergency departments are connected to hospitals, which you can be admitted to for more critical care if needed. Examples of reasons to visit an emergency department include shortness of breath, chest pain, severe abdominal pain, major trauma, suicide attempts, motor vehicle accidents, uncontrolled bleeding and any signs of stroke or cardiac issues. Emergency departments are best for true medical emergencies.


Primary Care PhysicianYou are likely to have a relationship with your primary care provider and might feel more comfortable talking to him or her than a provider you do not know at an urgent care or emergency department. Knowing your history will help them know where to start when determining what is wrong, and they might be able to avoid running duplicate tests. Sometimes, however, it can be difficult to get an appointment at a primary care office and most offices do not accept walk-in appointments, even for emergencies.

If you cannot get into your primary care office or if it is an evening or weekend, urgent care offices are a great choice. They can also provide similar care that emergency departments provide for less severe cases without long wait times often associated with emergency departments.

Emergency departments are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, meaning you can receive care absolutely anytime you need it. They can also provide care for any type of illness or injury, and because they are connected to a hospital, you can immediately be transferred into the care of a specialist if further care is needed.


It is important to know what your medical insurance covers and what your copay will be for care received.

Many times, copays for emergency room visits are much higher than for visits to an urgent care facility or primary care provider.

A blog by St. George’s University Medical School included details of a study that found the average cost for a visit to a hospital-based ER in Texas in 2015 was $2,259. That same study showed that a visit to an urgent care cost about $168.

The next time you or a family member needs care, consider the pros and cons of primary care offices, urgent care offices and emergency departments listed above. If it is a true life-threatening emergency, visit the nearest emergency department as soon as possible. If it is less severe, consider going to your primary care physician or to an urgent care facility.

Alliance Express Urgent Care offers medical services at convenient hours and locations. Services offered include illness treatment, minor injury care, pediatrics, some x-rays, physicals care and occupational medicine. Contact us today to make an appointment.

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