Family Doctor Vs. Urgent Care: Here’s How To Decide

Today's families have more options for health care than ever before, and it can be confusing trying to figure out where to turn for help with an illness or injury. In the past, your family physician was your go-to source for minor health problems, and the hospital was where you went for life-threatening emergencies. Now, urgent care adds another option that offers greater convenience for treating common health conditions. If you are facing a health problem that requires treatment, then here are the questions to ask that will help you make the right choice for your care.

What Type of Symptoms Are You Experiencing?

According to a study conducted by Truven Health MarketScan, approximately 42% of patients who visited an emergency room had symptoms that could have been treated by a primary care physician. When you are feeling ill, it is important to avoid panicking. Symptoms, such as a high fever or serious cough, can usually wait a day or two until you can schedule an appointment with your doctor. However, a clinic designed for urgent conditions can provide faster relief for serious illness or pain. This is especially important if you experience an injury, such as a broken bone or a laceration, which may not be manageable in your family doctor office.

Is Convenience a Concern?

The majority of primary care physicians are only open during traditional office hours, which is inconvenient if you are trying to juggle work and family responsibilities. Walk-in clinics, however, are open later during the evening and on weekends so that you can seek treatment without having to miss work. They also do not require appointments and operate using a triage system so that wait times are minimized. Many clinics for urgent health conditions also offer in-house pharmacies and prescription refills so that you can leave with everything you need for a full recovery.

Are You Seeking a Faster Diagnosis?

Family doctors can quickly diagnose simple illnesses in their office that do not require testing such as the common cold. However, you may be in for a wait if they must do testing that requires an outside lab. An urgent care center typically has X-ray machines and an in-house lab that can give instant feedback regarding your condition. If you are dealing with a health condition where the underlying cause may not be found through a visual exam, then visiting the urgent care center is the smart option for avoiding a delayed diagnosis.

Making decisions regarding your health care is best done before you are sick so that you can avoid acting out of desperation. Family doctors are ideal for treating common, familiar symptoms that can wait for treatment. However, an urgent care center is your best bet for handling health issues when convenience and prompt relief are your top concerns.