When To Go To The ER Or Doctor’s Office

You’re not feeling well and have decided to seek medical attention. But where you should go? Should you go to the local hospital’s emergency room, visit your personal doctor, or go to an urgent care center?

The answer depends on your specific situation. It’s important to go to the right medical setting so you can get the best type of care for your medical needs.

Here are some tips to help you decide where to go when you require medical care.

If you think it is a life-threatening emergency, immediately go to the ER or call 911. Do not delay.

Emergency rooms are designed to handle these urgent medical situations.

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Some examples of emergency situations include:

  • Heart attack
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe burns
  • Head injury
  • Major injuries or severe bleeding

If it is not an emergency, try visiting your doctor or an urgent care center. That way you will avoid a long wait, and will likely avoid more expensive medical bills. It’s important to save the hospital emergency room for true emergencies. Visiting the emergency room for a common illness or minor injury delays care for someone who is experiencing a true emergency and drives up the cost of health care.

If you are feeling sick, but it’s not an emergency, you should visit your primary care doctor first. Your doctor is familiar with you and your medical history. Your doctor will be able to help diagnose your condition, and will let you know if you need to seek additional care.

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Some examples of generally non-emergency situations:

  • Sore throat
  • Ankle sprain
  • Rash
  • Immunization
  • Sports physical
  • Chronic conditions, such as asthma or diabetes

If you feel sick or have an injury that doesn’t require immediate emergency treatment, but you can’t wait to visit your doctor, you may want to consider visit an urgent care center or walk-in clinic. Many cities have urgent care centers that help patients in these types of situations.

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Urgent care centers are often open later at night than general doctor’s office hours, and visiting an urgent care center often leads to shorter waits and less expensive out-of-pocket medical expenses than visiting the ER. You should check to make sure the urgent care center is part of your plan’s insurance network, however.

Some examples of potential reasons to visit urgent care include:

  • Spiking high fever
  • Painful possible ear infection
  • Broken wrist
  • Injury requiring stitches
  • Painful urination

These are just some general suggestions. Please consult a medical professional to help diagnose your condition and the necessary medical care you should seek.

Please call the phone number listed on the back of your Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota ID card for questions about your insurance coverage.

Ryan Schuster is an editor in the Communications department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.

1 Response

  1. Hi bcbsnd,

    Indeed very true, if the situation isn’t really that emergency your doctor or an urgent care clinic is much better than emergency rooms.

    Thank you for sharing this article, it helps a lot.


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