When you’re feeling sick or sore, it can be hard to think clearly. You want relief now, and you don’t really care where it comes from. If you have a primary care doctor, you may assume that you can’t get an appointment on short notice, or that a trip to the emergency room will be easier and faster.
But that’s often not the case. Check out these three great reasons to opt for a doctor’s appointment over an ER visit whenever possible.
- Preventative care is key. If you schedule regular checkups with your doctor, you’re much more likely to catch illnesses early and get better at paying attention to the signals your body sends when something isn’t right. Ask your primary care physician for a flu vaccination as soon as they’re available to avoid an emergency situation.
Also be sure to get medical care at the first sign of concerning symptoms, before your health is in serious danger and you’re in serious discomfort. This will help you avoid expensive emergency room bills, and keep yourself feeling your best!
- Your doctor knows you. Do you have your immediate family’s health history memorized? Do you carry your own medical records around with you wherever you go? Do you have an infallible memory that never misses a thing? If the answer to any of these ridiculous questions is “No!” then you might be better off seeing a physician who’s kept track of these things for you.
Medications can interact in disastrous ways, and knowing your family’s health history can help a physician make a quicker, more accurate diagnosis. Also, if you visit the emergency room, the records and medications from that visit could slip through the cracks and not make it into your primary care physician’s files. Keep your medical records in one place whenever you can to simplify and expedite your care.
- Your time is valuable. Your doctor’s office can schedule you an appointment and get you in and out basically on time. But if you head to the emergency room with the flu, or an ear infection, or something else that isn’t immediately threatening your life, you’ll likely be waiting for hours.
That’s because emergency rooms don’t serve patients on a first come, first served basis. Instead, they use a triage system, which means that the most serious cases get seen first, and everyone else waits around miserably because they aren’t sick enough. In contrast, primary care physicians are happiest to see patients when they’re healthy, or their health issue is simple and quick to fix.
There are plenty of advantages to seeing your doctor over going to the ER, but sometimes it just isn’t feasible. Your doctor may be booked up for the next couple of days (or weeks!), or their hours might not work with your schedule in the near future.
If you can’t get an appointment but you want to avoid the ER at all costs (pun fully intended), you do have another option: urgent care. Urgent care clinics are convenient for a number of reasons
For one, they’ll get you in and out quickly. About 60 percent of all urgent care clinics will keep you waiting only 15 minutes (or fewer!) before you’re seen by a physician or a mid-level provider like a nurse practitioner. According to a survey conducted by The Urgent Care Association of America, over half of all urgent care patients wait less than 15 minutes, and about 80 percent of all urgent care visits last less than an hour.
Urgent care centers are also open earlier and longer than many doctor’s offices. Over two-thirds open before 9:00 am during the week, and between one-third and one-half do so on the weekend. Nearly all urgent care clinics stay open until 7:00 pm or later during the week, and about 40 percent are open until 9:00 pm or later.
No matter your schedule or your sickness, just remember: you have plenty of options for your care!