When you’re sick or injured, your focus is on feeling better as soon as possible. One of the best ways to make this happen is by seeking out the most appropriate care.
Consider the following example – one that’s all too common during flu season: A mother and her 9-year-old son start experiencing flu symptoms on a Sunday afternoon. The mother has a fever along with chills and body aches. The son has these same symptoms, along with signs of respiratory distress – faster breathing, pale skin and difficulty speaking. Their primary care provider’s office is closed until Monday morning – should they wait to seek care until then?
In this situation, the best option is likely a combination of types of care. Calling the primary care provider’s office nurse line is a good first step. The nurse might suggest the mother visit a walk-in clinic or wait to see the primary care provider the following morning. But her son may require more immediate care to address his symptoms – either a trip to urgent care or the emergency room.
Whether you’re hit with flu symptoms or suffer a sports injury, you have options for care. It’s just a matter of deciding which type is the most appropriate for your situation. Here are four common types of care and when you might utilize each:
- Primary Care – When possible, your primary care provider should be your first choice for care. He or she knows your medical history and has quick access to your records – both of which can lead to treatment that’s personalized for you. Primary care providers mainly treat non-critical medical conditions and help manage chronic conditions. If you need a higher level of care, he or she will direct you to the right resource.
- Walk-In Clinic – When you need quick care outside of your normal primary care provider’s office hours, going to a walk-in clinic may be an option. These types of clinics are also a good option for health screenings and immunizations. For example, Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network offers FastCare clinics at Meijer stores throughout Southeast Wisconsin.
- Urgent Care – These centers are usually open seven days a week, including holidays, and are available to provide immediate care for moderate illnesses and injuries. This may include treatment for respiratory infections or conditions involving dehydration, as well as sprains, broken bones and cuts needing stitches. Urgent care may also offer X-ray services, routine blood work, and even quick check ups and physicals.
- Emergency Room – This type of care is available seven days a week, 24 hours a day and is typically reserved for the most serious conditions. Care is immediate making this your best option if you’re concerned you have a life-threatening condition.
Some people opt to use the emergency room for non-serious conditions and injuries, but this is not recommended as it’s difficult to get personalized care and is also extremely expensive. For these situations, it’s best to see a primary care provider.
Even if your primary care provider’s office isn’t open when you experience symptoms, most offices provide a 24/7 nurse line that can help you make decisions regarding when and where to seek care. Sometimes just getting reassurance that your condition can be taken care of the next day by your primary care provider is enough to avoid a costly visit to the emergency room.
Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network provides a variety of care options to ensure people receive the right care, at the right time, in the right location. We offer primary care and same-day care, walk-in clinics and urgent care as well as fully staffed emergency rooms.