You tripped and fell as you rushed out the door for work this morning, and now your thumb is throbbing and swelling. Do you chalk up your whole day as a loss and visit the emergency room? Do you call your primary care doctor and see if they can fit you in to take a look? Or do you try visiting one of the urgent care clinics you pass every day?
A possible broken thumb is a good example of when an urgent care clinic can be a safe, convenient option for care. You will be able to avoid the lines and stress of the emergency room, while being evaluated and receiving care more quickly than a typical primary care office can provide.
But, when it comes to other health issues, how do you know when to visit urgent care vs. primary care? Or when to visit urgent care vs. the ER? We’ve provided some examples below to help make the decision more clear.
In general, dial 911 – or head to a hospital – immediately for any medical problem that appears life-threatening. Examples of conditions that need emergency medical care include:
Urgent care clinics are a good option for situations that are not considered emergencies but still require care within 24 hours , such as:
In contrast to urgent care or the emergency room, think of your primary care provider as the center of your healthcare world. They know the most about you, including your health history, chronic conditions, and current medications. With an appointment, you avoid long waits and can expect to pay a lower co-pay than an ER or urgent care visit (if you have insurance).
Examples of primary care visits include:
Still not sure where you should go? Many insurance companies and primary care practices provide 24 hour nurse hotlines , which can be a great resource if you are trying to decide between urgent care or your own doctor.
If you do end up visiting an urgent care clinic, bring along a prescription discount card from FamilyWize. Many clinics are located within retail pharmacies and the card can provide significant savings if you have to purchase medications during your visit. And if the ER doctor or your primary care doctor write you a prescription, use the Drug Price Look-up Tool from FamilyWize to find the pharmacy with the lowest price possible for your prescription , and then use your FamilyWize Prescription Discount Card to save when you pick it up.
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