What You Need to Know: Emergency Room, Immediate Care or Primary Care?

Know where to go before you go

When you’re sick, it’s hard enough to function, much less try to decide where to see the doctor. From Immediate Care to the Emergency Room to your primary care physician, there are plenty of options – but where should you go?

The main difference is the level of care provided. Each has their benefits, so making sure you chose the right care setting is important.  

Emergency Room

The ER is the best choice for life-threatening emergencies or acute complications that need advanced imaging or if you have signs or symptoms of a heart attack, stroke, or traumatic injury.

In addition to symptoms of a stroke or heart attack, you should go the Emergency Room if you have an acute trauma that includes the risk of a loss of limb, motor vehicle accidents, broken bones, major head injuries, seizures, severe abdominal pain, severe asthma attack, unconsciousness, or uncontrollable bleeding. The ER will be able to provide the advanced care you need, in a time-aware environment.

Immediate Care

Immediate Care centers are useful options when you don’t have a primary care physician or your regular doctor is unavailable and you are unable to make a timely appointment. Immediate Care might be your choice if you require medical attention for an acute but not life-threatening emergency such as a sprained ankle or sinus infection.

Immediate Care visits can be utilized for common cold symptoms such as a cough, nasal drainage, sore throat, and ear pain. Other conditions treated include rashes, minor cuts/lacerations, nausea/vomiting, urinary tract symptoms, minor sprains and strains, minor burns, insect bites, migraines, and dehydration. If your injury or illness is more serious, go to the ER.

While Immediate Care facilities are a good resource for illnesses and medical issues that arise after hours and on the weekends, you should still follow up with your primary care physician after your immediate care visit to ensure your health is restored. You should always update your primary care provider about any health changes.

Primary Care

Primary care physicians treat lifelong complications such as hypertension and diabetes and minor ailments such as colds. The benefit of visiting your primary care physician when you are sick is that the physician will know your medical history, any allergies to medications, understand what new medications will work best with your current medications, and often are able to accommodate you when you need a sick visit.

Your regular primary care provider may pick up on small changes in your health before another provider because they already established a base line from your yearly checkups. This means they can notice changes before others can, and can be instrumental in helping you stay healthy.

It is ideal to establish care with a primary care physician so that they can get to know you and your medical history. Not only does a primary care provider care for acute and chronic illnesses such as diabetes, they also provide health education, routine checkups, overall health management, and promote health prevention throughout the lifespan of the patient.

A primary care physician cares for acute illnesses, chronic conditions, promotes health, and coordinates preventive health screenings. Acute illnesses include common cold symptoms, rashes, minor cuts/lacerations, nausea/vomiting, urinary tract symptoms, minor sprains and strains, minor burns, insect bites, and migraines. Chronic conditions are illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol, depression, anxiety, asthma, COPD, and thyroid disorders.

Health promotion consists of yearly checkups, education on nutrition and weight loss, directions on medication use. Primary care physicians can easily coordinate preventive health screenings such as routine lab work, eye exams, colon screenings, and mammograms.

Click here to find a primary care physician or call 877-834-7264.

Wait at Home - Check In Online!

At the MacNeal Emergency Room and at La Grange Immediate Care, you have the option to wait from home, instead of the ER, by checking in online.

This can be a good option for non-life threatening emergencies. With online check-in, you choose your appointment time, wait at home, and arrive to be seen at the time you’ve chosen.