Not Feeling Well? How to Know Where to Go
By Helen Manalis, DO, Primary Care Physician, Virtua Primary Care—Westmont
Is it bad mayo or appendicitis? A chest cold or coronavirus? Heartburn or a heart attack? You need medical attention, but where should you go?
Choosing the right place for care depends on the severity of your symptoms. If they’re life-threatening, you need to call 911 or get to a hospital emergency room right away. Most times, though, you don’t need the high level of care an ER provides. If you go there with a minor illness or injury, you’ll end up waiting for hours and have a larger bill.
So where should you go for the right care? Here are some tips so you choose your care with confidence.
Primary care for prevention, wellness, and illness
Your primary care provider knows you best, and is usually the best person to call first for care.
Your primary care provider keeps you healthy with regular checkups, immunizations, and the management of chronic conditions like high blood pressure. They also treat colds and flu, sinus infections, back pain, and other sudden illnesses and injuries.
Your primary provider will prescribe medications, order blood work or X-rays, and refer to you to a specialist, like a cardiologist, if needed.
Primary care appointments are offered in person, and often by telehealth video visit from your smartphone, tablet, or laptop.
Urgent care for life’s little emergencies
Urgent care is for minor illnesses and injuries when you don’t want to wait for an appointment, or on nights, weekends, and holidays when your doctor’s office is closed. It’s a convenient choice for conditions like colds, the flu, strep throat, urinary tract infections (UTIs), earaches, pink eye, stomach viruses, aches, sprains, strains, coronavirus consults, and more.
Urgent care is available in person or via telehealth. Choose walk-in urgent care if you need stitches for a cut or X-rays for a minor injury. Urgent care is not the right choice for any life-threatening condition, like chest pain.
Hospital emergency room for serious illness or injury
For life-threatening symptoms, like difficulty breathing, call 911 for life-saving care. The same goes for chest pain, severe injury, heavy bleeding, stroke symptoms, loss of consciousness, broken bones, or severe abdominal pain. With advanced treatments and specialists on site, hospital emergency rooms are the most expensive option for care, but absolutely necessary when your life is on the line.
Whether your symptoms are minor or severe, it’s important not to delay care. Getting the right care in the right place when you need it ensures that you’ll feel better faster and save time and money in the process.
Care when and how you need it
Whether you need care for a sinus infection, a sprained ankle, or something more serious, we’re here for you.
Updated October 4, 2021