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Primary, Urgent, or Emergency Care? When and How to Make the Call


With today’s many options for healthcare, it’s not always easy to determine the best course of action when you or your child is sick or hurt. When should you make an appointment with your doctor? How “urgent” is urgent care? Is it time to go to the emergency room? Here are some tips that should help you decide.

Visit your Primary Care Physician for:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis/Joint Pain
  • Anxiety/Depression
  • Fatigue/Unexplained
  • Weight Loss or Gain
  • Back Pain
  • Acid Reflux
  • Management of All Chronic Diseases
  • Difficulty Sleeping
  • Constipation
  • Disease Screening (Cholesterol, Diabetes, etc.)
  • Physicals or Yearly Check-ups
  • Medication Refills
  • All Other Injuries and Illnesses Listed Under Urgent Care

Visit your PCP or an Urgent Care facility for:

  • Cold/Cough/Flu/Sinus/Fever
  • Sore Throat/Strep Throat
  • Ear Pain or Infection
  • Eye Irritation or Pink Eye
  • Urinary Tract Infection
  • Minor Lacerations
  • Abscess/Insect and Animal Bites
  • Rashes and Minor Burns
  • Sprains, Strains, and Possible Closed Fractures (No Open Wound)
  • Minor Head Injury
  • Nausea, Vomiting, and Diarrhea
  • Mild Abdominal Pain
  • Mild Asthma Attack
  • Migraine or Mild Headache
  • Allergic Reactions or Allergies

Visit the Emergency Room for:

  • Chest Pain
  • Shortness of Breath or a Severe Asthma Attack
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Loss of Consciousness or Fainting
  • Uncontrollable Bleeding
  • Broken Bone (with Deformity or Open Wound)
  • Seizures
  • Severe Abdominal Pain
  • Severe Headache
  • Weakness, Slurred Speech, or Confusion
  • Major Head Injuries
  • Severe Burns
  • Severe Pain
  • Suicidal or Homicidal Thoughts
  • Loss of Eyesight

Your primary care provider (PCP) should be your first choice for acute and chronic illnesses because he or she is familiar with your medical history. Many primary care offices and health centers in the Baton Rouge area offer same-day appointments during regular office hours. Some even offer extended hours to accommodate patients’ busy schedules. Check with your PCP to see if he or she offers the same.

Outside of regular or extended office hours, the same acute, non-life threatening illnesses or injuries that you may normally go to your PCP for can be treated at an urgent care facility. Hours of operation vary, but no appointment is necessary and the wait is typically less than an hour. 
 
A visit to the emergency room is warranted only for potentially life-threatening illnesses and injuries. Wait times for non-life threatening conditions could exceed an hour or more in the emergency room. 

Ochsner On Call provides a free resource for patients who are trying to determine who to call for care. Specially trained registered nurses are available to help you decide if your symptoms require going to an emergency room or urgent care clinic or scheduling an appointment with a primary care physician. This service is free and available by calling (800) 231-5257 or (504) 842-3155. You can also call Lakeline Direct, a service provided by Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center at (225) 756-5253 or (877) 765-5253 to receive answers to your health questions from registered nurses, 24 hours a day. Your health insurance company or other local health care institution may offer something similar. ■

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01 Dec 2017


By Dr. Lija Thomas

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