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When to Choose Primary Care, Urgent Care, or the Emergency Room

Health Articles |
Urgent care

When you or a loved one is sick or injured, emotions can run high, making it difficult to decide on the best place to seek treatment. That's why it's important to become familiar with the differences between primary care, urgent care and emergency room care before illness or injury occurs.

The following are options for seeking treatment, based on your healthcare need:

Primary Care

Primary Care Providers (PCPs) are wellness partners to their patients and, as the name suggests, the place to start for routine check-ups and non-emergency medical care. PCPs know their patients best, can help coordinate healthcare needs and guide patients in how to make healthy choices. PCPs provide regular screening and testing to prevent or manage chronic disease and make recommendations for optimal health. Seen as needed or by appointment, PCPs are a valued long-term partner in overall health and wellbeing.

Find a Primary Care Provider Near You

Urgent Care

Not all medical situations happen during regular office hours. If your primary care provider is unavailable, or you can't wait for an appointment, urgent care is a good choice. Urgent care facilities are open after regular business hours and see patients on a walk-in basis without an appointment. Some urgent care facilities do offer appointment scheduling options, including online check-in and wait time prediction.

Urgent Care treats non-life-threatening conditions, such as:

  • Coughs, colds and flu
  • Cuts and abrasions
  • Earaches
  • Minor burns
  • Muscle strains
  • Pink eye
  • Sore throat
  • Stomach viruses, and more

Urgent care centers can also treat more complex issues that cannot wait until the next day. For example, many urgent care facilities have on-site testing, such as:

  • X-ray capability
  • Diagnostic laboratory services for blood testing and other lab work
  • On-site pharmacy for common prescriptions

Urgent care accepts insurance and can be more cost effective than treatment in an emergency room.

Save Time—Use Online Check-in

Emergency Care

Best equipped to treat severe or life-threatening illness and injury, the emergency room is the place to go when the situation cannot wait. Call 911, or go the nearest hospital emergency room if you are experiencing symptoms such as:

  • Chest pain
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Coughing blood
  • Compound fracture (bone protruding through the skin)
  • Sudden weakness, confusion or slurred speech
  • Changes in vision
  • Feel any other significant, possibly life-threatening, distress

Always call 911 for cardiac or stroke symptoms and other severe or life-threatening emergencies!

About Doylestown Health's Urgent Care

When non-life-threatening illness or injury just can't wait, there's Urgent Care. Staffed by Doylestown Health physicians, Urgent Care is open 365 days a year with extended hours, offering quick and convenient treatment to all ages. With electronic medical records that link Doylestown Health patients with Doylestown Health specialists, primary care physicians and Doylestown Hospital, your Urgent Care team can access health information in real time. Simply walk-in for treatment on your schedule. X-rays, sutures and common prescriptions are available on-site, allowing patients to get in and out and on and their way to healing – fast.

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