ER, urgent care, PCP: Where to turn for care

How do you know where to go when you need care right away? The important thing is to use your best judgment when choosing where to go for care.

For most problems, call your PCP

Your primary care doctor knows your health history and is the best place to start when you’re sick or need care. When you have a problem that is serious but is not an emergency, call your PCP. Your PCP will let you know what to do.

Care for urgent needs that are not life-threatening

If you need care right away but you’re not able to see your doctor, then urgent care might be the right choice for you. Urgent care centers are usually open later in the evening and on weekends, and can be a convenient option when you need care for non life-threatening needs.

You can also use virtual care to visit with a doctor online 24/7 through MedNow by:

Examples of when to get urgent care

  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Cold, flu or fever
  • Allergies
  • Earache, toothache
  • Low back pain
  • Stomachache
  • Diarrhea
  • Minor cuts, bruises, rashes
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Sprains or strains
  • Urinary tract infection

Go to the ER for emergencies

Only go to the emergency room (or call 911) when you have severe, life-threatening conditions. The emergency room is for problems that may cause death or injury if not treated right away. It is also one of the most expensive ways to get care and is one reason the cost of health care is so high. 

Examples of emergencies:

  • Chest pain
  • Heart attack
  • Severe burns
  • Stroke
  • Severe bleeding
  • Drug overdose
  • Convulsions
  • Unconsciousness