Sunday, March 14, 2010

How do I know if I need to go to urgent care or the emergency department?

The answer here is it depends.

Anything that you could see your primary care provider about but can't because they are closed belongs in urgent care. These are complaints like sore throat, ear infection, colds, flu. If you would normally feel comfortable going to your primary care provider about your problem then you can safely go to urgent care.

If you have a problem that you think could be potentially serious then you need to to the ED. Of course if you have no idea if your problem is serious then you have to use your best judgement or call your primary care provider and let them decide. In general, most urgent care centers will not do IV medications, fluids, monitoring or keep you in their office for a long time for observation. If you need these things then they will usually send you to the ED.

Some urgent care centers will suture, some will not. If you think you need stitches, you should call your primary care provider and ask for advice if you don't know if they will suture you at urgent care. The same advice applies for fractures. There are some centers that will treat fractures and others will xray the patient and then send them to the ED if they have a fracture. This often takes a lot longer and you would have been better off going to the ED in the first place.

Hope this clears things up. Please feel free to ask if you have questions on this topic!

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