This got me thinking of some of questions people have: How do I know if or when I should go to an ER? Should I go to an Urgent Care instead? And now, I also have the option of Virtual Care, so when do I use that?
ER or Urgent Care: Where should I go?
It depends on your condition and what you are experiencing. Here are some guidelines to follow:
Go to the ER for life-threatening, serious conditions
The ER is set up to immediately respond and care for patients in critical situations, with all the resources available to provide the care you need. If you have a serious or life-threatening situation, call 9-1-1.
Use the Emergency Room for:
- Electric shock or lightning strike
- Severe chest pain or pressure
- Trouble breathing
- Passing out, fainting
- Pain in the arm or jaw
- Unusual or bad headache, especially if it started suddenly
- Suddenly not able to speak, see, walk or move
- Suddenly weak or drooping on one side of the body
- Dizziness or weakness that doesn’t go away
- Sudden confusion
- Possible broken bone, loss of movement, especially if the bone is pushing through the skin
- Severe pain anywhere on the body
- Allergic reaction with trouble breathing, swelling, hives
- Suicidal thoughts
Do NOT go to an Urgent Care if your condition may be life-threatening
An urgent care is not set up with the equipment and resources to respond to critical needs. You will be assessed but you may be told that you need to go to the ER, which can cause delays in getting the care you need.
Go to an Urgent Care for minor illnesses and injuries
Urgent Care Centers are set up to provide care for you if you have minor illnesses and injuries. Not only will you be seen faster for minor conditions in an Urgent Care versus an ER, but it will also cost less.
Use an Urgent Care for:
- Minor injuries and illnesses
- Minor burns
- Sprains and strains
- Coughs, colds, sore throats
- Ear infections
- Fever or flu-like symptoms
- Rash or other skin irritations
- Mild asthma
- Animal bites
- Broken bones
Avoid going to an ER for minor illnesses and injuries
Even though the ER can help you, the ER cares for the sickest patients first. So if your condition isn’t life-threatening, you may find yourself waiting while other patients who need immediate care are seen.
What about Virtual Care?
A new option available today is receiving care from a doctor online, also known as virtual care. This can be a good option for minor conditions and it’s more convenient than driving to an ER or Urgent Care Center. So, how do you know if it’s a good option for you? Typically, virtual care services like our Bryan Health eVisit offer care for very specific, minor conditions.
Use Virtual Care for:
- Cold, sinus infection or sore throat
- Fever or flu-like symptoms
- Female bladder infection (UTI)
- Vaginal yeast infection
- Pink eye
- Canker or cold sore
- Eczema or dermatitis
While I can’t speak to other services, I can tell you that for Bryan Health eVisit you’ll answer a series of questions online and your condition will be assessed. If a diagnosis and treatment plan can be provided for you through virtual care, a Bryan Health board certified Nebraska doctor will provide this to you within an hour guaranteed but it’s usually within 15 minutes. If your condition can’t be handled through virtual care, you’ll receive a recommendation on whether you should be seen at your doctor’s office, an urgent care or the emergency department. If we cannot provide you with a diagnosis through eVisit and refer you to care elsewhere, you will not be charged for the eVisit.
Summing it All Up
While it can be confusing, especially when you’re not feeling well. Follow these general guidelines:
- Use the ER – for serious, life-threatening situations
- Use an Urgent Care – for minor illnesses and injuries
- Use a Virtual Care – for minor illnesses
At Bryan, we have the trained, dedicated and compassionate professionals to care for you no matter what your need – whether it’s an ER, urgent care or virtual care. Our top priority is to help you feel better and regain your health.