Primary Care vs Urgent Care

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Charles Fazio

July 13, 2021

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primary care vs urgent care

Picture this – you are hiking on a beautiful trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. The scenery is amazing, and the weather is perfect. On your way back down to the car you stumble and fall.

In the moment you feel pain in your ankle but walk it off.

Once you get back to the car and sit down you realize that the pain has significantly intensified and your ankle is starting to swell.

By the time you get home you can not put any weight on it without excruciating pain.

Did I break my ankle? 

Did I sprain my ankle? 

Is it something else entirely? 

Should I call my Primary Care Physician, go to an Urgent Care Center, or have an Emergency Room visit?

Unfortunately experiencing an unknown illness, accident or injury is a part of life and as hard as we try to avoid it, they still can happen to us. The important thing is that when an unforeseen medical event occurs your life, it is handled properly to reduce stress and give you the best outcome possible in the shortest amount of time. 

Properly assessing the situation and deciding the beset course of medical care can be difficult.

Whether you are dealing with allergic reactions to unknown insect bites, minor burns, severe pain, head injury, or an unknown illness – knowing when to choose an urgent care facility, primary care office, or emergency department is critical. The following article is designed to help you understand the differences between these types of care and which is the best choice for your current medical concerns. 

Primary Care

A primary care provider is the first point of contact in the healthcare system for many patients. There are a handful of different specialties within primary care including: family doctors, internists, pediatricians, Obstetrics / Gynecology, and nurse practitioners. Regardless of the specialty, a highly skilled primary care doctor will take their patients medical history into account to administer disease prevention, health maintenance, patient education, and the diagnosis and treatment of chronic illnesses. 

When Should You Go To Primary Care?

Scheduling regular checkup visits with your primary care provider is the best form of preventive care to combat and mitigate a chronic condition and keep an eye on your overall health. Seeing your primary care doctor for regular checkups can help greatly reduce overall medical expenses and unplanned emergency room visits. 

Some of the most common primary care services include:

  • Adjustments to medication strengths / directions on medication use
  • Telehealth (virtual visits)
  • Acute care & sick visits
  • Cold symptoms / minor illnesses
  • Chronic condition management
  • Annual physical examinations
  • STD & STI

If you would like to learn more about primary care services, please check out our article “What Are Primary Care Services?“. 

Keeping track of you and your families health is important, if you do not have a primary care provider and live in Lafayette, CO – check out our awesome in house PCP Dawn Moon.

Urgent Care

In contrast to primary care clinics that see patients Monday to Friday during normal operating hours, urgent care clinics offer services with extended hours, including holidays and weekend hours.

According to Urgent MED, urgent care clinics are typically able to see patients on the same day, and are capable of handing a variety of different healthcare conditions, making it a very convenient option for patients.

Similar to primary care, urgent care can also prescribe medications, but it results in upfront costs that are less cost effective than a primary physician.

South Pointe Healthcare as well as other prominent healthcare centers recommend to try and setup a same day appointment with your primary care physician before choosing urgent care. Your primary care doctor has deep knowledge of your health history and any present medical issues which can be crucial for receiving the best treatment possible. 

In addition to the potential quality of care provided, urgent care can be more expensive depending on your specific health insurance plan.

When Should You Use Urgent Care?

If you need immediate medical attention on the weekend, holidays, or late into the evening, urgent care may be the right choice for you. Some of the situations where urgent care would be appropriate when you cannot see your usual primary care doctor include:

  • Non-life threatening allergic reactions of any kind
  • Minor burns
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Ear infections / unknown ear pain or sinus infections
  • Insect bites and minor animal bites
  • Contusions, abrasions, and minor cuts
  • Closed fractures

Emergency Room

The Emergency Room (ER) is a specific section of a hospital that is dedicated to treating patients who have trauma or other types of medical emergencies. They are typically open 24/7 and offer any imaginable emergency medical support to walk in patients. 

When Should You Use An ER?

Being significantly more expensive than primary or walk-in clinics, the emergency department should only be used when you have a life threatening condition or accident. If you or anyone that you know is experiencing any of the following symptoms, it is advised to seek ER care immediately.

  • Poisoning
  • Severe asthma attack
  • Seizures
  • Concussion / loss of consciousness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Head injury or persistent and sudden headaches 
  • Shortness of breath / difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain (could be a sign of a heart attack or stroke) 
  • Severe burns, severe cuts and uncontrollable bleeding 
  • Compound fracture

Although a visit to the ER has extensive medical treatment options, this should only be used when it is an emergency situation.

Closing Considerations

Depending on your specific healthcare needs, choosing the type of care that you receive is important whether it is primary care, urgent care, or emergency care. 

South Pointe Healthcare provides integrated primary care solutions to our Colorado community. Located in Lafayette, CO, we combine family medicine with chiropractic care, massage therapy, physical rehab, physical therapy, and mental health counseling to give all of our patients the best care possible – while keeping them under the same roof. 

This unique model allows for our providers to work as a team with clear and consistent communication to treat all kinds of symptoms, from chronic issues to musculoskeletal pain and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. 

If you are looking for incredible healthcare, please give us a call today at (303) 665-8444 or checkout our online scheduling options.

Take Charge Of Your Health

Primary Care, Chiropractic, and Mental Health -become a part of our healthcare family today!

*The material contained in this blog post is for general information purposes only. You should not rely on the material or information in this article to make any diagnosis or healthcare decision. Any healthcare decision that you make should be brought up with and agreed upon in conjunction with your primary care provider. South Pointe Healthcare at Coal Creek LLC in no circumstances is liable to any party for damages that may occur directly or indirectly from information or material contained in this article.