Posted by Zahra Nielsen

Primary Care, Urgent Care, or the Emergency Room? Why it’s important to know the difference.

July 13, 2022 Family MedicineUrgent CareValue-Based Care

Imagine this: It’s the first day of summer and your family decides to enjoy the warm weather by having a picnic at your local park. You were tasked with cutting up the watermelon (what better snack to go with a fun day in the sun?) You grab the biggest kitchen knife you can find and begin slicing, when…

Uh-oh.

Somehow the knife slips and slices your finger instead. It’s a pretty big cut, and by the looks of it, you know you’re going to need a few stitches.

Your brother is saying you need to go immediately to the Emergency Room (ER), but your mom believes the neighborhood Urgent Care clinic could treat you and that you’d save a lot of money that way. A debate arises among your family, and you’re confused about where to go for treatment.

So, what do you do?

Confusing an Urgent Care matter with an ER matter is a common mistake. To be fair, it’s not always clear when an Urgent Care visit is sufficient or when a condition arises to the level that an ER visit is necessary.

That’s where we come in. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to confidently differentiate between the ER, Urgent Care, and Primary Care.

Let’s review what conditions are actually treated at each location:

Urgent Care

For issues that need immediate attention but are not life-threatening, head to an Urgent Care in your area. Urgent Care facilities are typically on a fixed schedule and will close in the evenings. For instance, Revere Health Urgent Care centers are open every day, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Here is a list of some of the most common issues that can be treated at Urgent Care:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Animal or insect bites
  • Sprains and strains
  • Cold and flu
  • Cuts requiring stitches
  • Earaches
  • Eye infections or irritation
  • Fever
  • Minor burns
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Skin conditions
  • Sore Throat
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Dehydration or heat exhaustion
  • Suspected broken bone*

*Not causing severe deformity or protrusion

Emergency Room

For issues that are life-threatening or could cause loss of limb or permanent disability, you will want to call 911 if necessary or go to the nearest ER. These facilities are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Here is a list of some of the most common issues that can be treated at the ER:

  • Severe chest pain
  • Loss of speech or difficulty speaking
  • Sudden loss of consciousness
  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Severe burns or lacerations
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Poisoning or overdose
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Head or eye injuries
  • Shortness of breath
  • Broken bones*

*Causing severe deformity of protrusion

Let’s go back to our watermelon scenario. Who was right, mom or brother? In this case, mother knows best. While serious, a cut like this can be effectively treated at Urgent Care since it’s serious but not life-threatening.

Primary Care

For non-urgent medical care, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider. This type of visit could include:

  • Check-ups
  • Immunizations
  • Medication refills
  • General health advice

As always, talk to your provider about any concerns you have regarding your care. If you are worried about needing urgent medical attention after-hours, you and your provider should set up a plan so that you know where to go for care. Regular check-ins with your provider are critical to maintaining good health and can help you avoid the ER or urgent care visits in the first place.

Why does it matter where I go?

You might be wondering: “Why can’t I just go to the emergency room for any issue? Isn’t that my safest bet?” There are several reasons why it matters where you go for care:

  1. The ER is much more expensive than urgent care or primary care. How much more? The average emergency room visit in Utah costs $3,219. The average urgent care visit costs $110. Even if you don’t pay all that cost out of pocket, your ER visit is still contributing to higher costs within the healthcare system overall.
  2. You’ll generally wait longer in the ER, especially if your issue is not a true emergency. The average ER has a wait time of 2.4 hours, whereas urgent care clinics can normally see walk-in patients within 15 to 45 minutes.
  3. When you visit the ER unnecessarily, you are diverting time and resources away from patients with true emergencies. ERs generally have very lean staff, so it’s important that physicians’ time is spent handling truly life-threatening situations.
  4. If you go to primary care or urgent care first, you may still be directed to the ER if it is determined that your situation is life-threatening. Let the experts tell you if you need the ER, rather than just assuming you do.

Revere Health is here to help with your urgent medical needs

Revere Health proudly operates seven Urgent Care locations across Utah. Because Revere Health practices value-based care, you can trust that you will receive the highest quality care at the lowest possible cost.

Check out Revere Health’s Urgent Care locations below!

Eagle Mountain Family Medicine & Urgent Care
Phone: (801) 429-8037
4095 Pony Express Parkway
Eagle Mountain, Utah 84005

Farr West Family Medicine and Urgent Care
Phone: (801) 528-5095
2850 North 2000 West #101
Farr West, Utah 84404

Lehi WIllowcreek Family Medicine & Urgent Care
Phone: (385) 203-1215
2183 West Main Street A107
Lehi, Utah 84043

Provo Urgent Care
Phone: (801) 812-5033
1055 North 500 West Building A
Provo, Utah 84604

Salem Urgent Care
Phone: (385) 265-6050
555 West State Road 164
Salem, Utah 84653

Spanish Fork Urgent Care
Phone: (385) 265-6060
972 North 600 East
Spanish Fork, Utah 84660

St. George Urgent Care
Phone: (435) 673-6131
2825 East Mall Drive
St. George, Utah 84790

WRITTEN BY:

Zahra Nielsen

Zahra Nielsen currently serves as Revere Health’s Community Relations Specialist. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science from Utah Valley University with the intention of working with at-risk communities, but she has since found a love for community engagement, volunteerism, and outreach. Since graduating, her career has taken her to non-profit organizations across the country. From Washington D.C, New York, and Salt Lake City, she has had the opportunity to work with notable organizations such as the National Council for Adoption, Volunteers of America, and United Way. After years of working in different areas of community engagement, Zahra has found her niche in writing. She hopes to pursue this creative form of outreach as a way of inspiring community members to be mindful of their well-being and the well-being of others. In her free time, Zahra likes to practice and teach yoga. She also enjoys live theatre, listening to music, and watching endless hours of quirky movies and TV shows with her husband.

Telehealth is not appropriate for every medical concern, so it’s important to ask your provider whether a virtual visit is suitable for your needs.

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.