CARE Primary, Urgent, or the ER


Illnesses can strike at any time — in the middle of the night, during the weekend or while at work. How do you know what kind of care you need? Should you call your primary care physician, go to an urgent care facility or head straight to the emergency room? What about receiving care via video or phone? Here’s a primer on the different types of care. 

  • Primary Care Physician: This is your regular doctor, the one who serves as your main medical resource and offers continuity in care. Your primary care doctor provides your annual physical and treats common ailments, like a cold or skin rash. 
  • Urgent Care Clinic: These facilities are best for non-emergencies that need quick care. Typically, most urgent care clinics don’t require appointments and have extended hours; they can help treat flu symptoms, mild asthma and sprains, and some offer school physicals and vaccinations. 
  • Emergency Room: Visit an emergency room for medical emergencies such as uncontrolled bleeding, difficulty breathing, chest pain or signs of stroke — sudden numbness in the face, dizziness, difficulty talking. If you are not sure if your ailment is an emergency, a visit to the emergency room is usually the safest option. 
  • Telemedicine: Online medical services are sometimes available to patients through video conferencing or via telephone. It can be a convenient way to get advice and possibly a prescription without leaving your couch or bed, and it is often used for minor medical issues such as a cough, cold, flu, rash, minor burn, pink eye, sinus infection, sore throat and urinary tract infection. 

Test Your Health Smarts

1. Which symptoms do not require a visit to the emergency room? 

A. Loss of consciousness 
B. Slurred speech and numbness on one side of the body 
C. Sinus pain 
D. Eye injury 

2. Which of the following can be treated at an urgent care facility? 

A. Rash without fever 
B. Sore throat 
C. Sprains 
D. All of the above 

3. If you need to lose weight but haven’t been successful on your own, where should you turn for help with a weight loss plan? 

A. Primary care doctor 
B. ER 
C. Urgent care 
D. None of the above 

4. You should bring your child to the emergency room if … 

A. He is younger than 2 months old and has a fever, defined as a temperature 100.4 degrees or higher 
B. He hits his head and appears to pass out or lose consciousness for a few seconds 
C. He has had a seizure 
D. All of the above 

5. What illnesses or injuries cannot be treated by telemedicine? 

A. Bug bites 
B. Broken bone 
C. Allergies 
D. Sore throat 

6. Is it advised to call an urgent care clinic and describe your infant’s symptoms before going to the facility? 

A. Yes 
B. No