(From Dr. Bill Kose with Blanchard Valley Health System)
Sometimes patients may not know when to go to the emergency room, as opposed to urgent care or their primary care provider’s office. But knowing the appropriate place to seek care can ensure that everything goes more smoothly.
If you can’t move one side of your body, or are experiencing extreme, sudden chest pain, that is an emergency and warrants going to the ER. The same is true if you have been in an accident and are bleeding.
However, if you are simply not feeling well, it’s generally best to call your family doctor. Primary care offices have someone on call to answer questions. That’s a good place to start if there are questions or concerns.
Urgent care, meanwhile, isn’t open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but can treat you when your primary care provider’s office is closed. If you get sick late on a Friday and you know your doctor won’t be in until Monday morning, going to urgent care may let you get treatment to feel better much sooner.
Urgent care also can offer some laboratory testing and X-rays on site. For example, if someone falls and hurts their wrist, they may go to urgent care to determine if the bone is broken.
The emergency room, meanwhile, will prioritize cases that are true emergencies. Providers there will also expedite any necessary testing.
Make no mistake: if you are experiencing heart attack or stroke symptoms, please get them checked at the emergency room.
Stroke symptoms include sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body; confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech; trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination; or a sudden severe headache with no known cause.
If you or a loved one experiences these symptoms, get them checked out immediately. Quick treatment can reduce the risk of disability and will likely lead to a better outcome than if you delay.
Abdominal pain that is severe or unusual for you should also get checked.
Please keep safety in mind. For example, if you’re experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, driving yourself to the ER could create additional danger if you lose consciousness and put yourself at risk of a crash. If you call an ambulance, they can get you to the hospital quickly and provide care on the way there.
Of course, we recognize that if you’re not a medical professional, sometimes it can be hard to gauge if your symptoms are serious. We always want people to take good care
of themselves. Keeping our community healthy is our number one priority – it is why we do what we do. If you are in a serious situation, please do not “tough it out”.
At the same time, we encourage people not to rush to the ER for minor illnesses or injuries. Doing so will divert the ER personnel from treating other patients.
So, when in doubt, make sure you are getting the care you need in a timely fashion so you can stay healthy. But keep in mind that “timely” may look different in one situation than another. Keep in mind that many avenues of care are available to you. We’re encouraging community members to seek the appropriate one for their circumstances.
William Kose, MD, JD Vice President of Special Projects, Blanchard Valley Health System