When you or a loved one is sick or injured, you may not be sure whether to see your primary care doctor, visit urgent care, or go to the emergency room (ER).
We want to help you make the best decision based on your insurance coverage, what you may have to pay out of pocket, and whether the site you visit has the resources to help with your situation. If you have questions about where to seek care, call us at 888-499-9303.
When to See Your Primary Care Doctor
If the situation is not an emergency and it is during regular office hours, visiting your primary care doctor is the best option. Your doctor knows you, your medical history, and what medications you take. Having an existing relationship with the doctor may also make it easier for them to fit you in quickly.
Your primary care doctor is the best call for:
- Skin conditions
- A cold, the flu, a cough, or a sore throat
- Low-grade fevers
- Minor allergic reactions
- Digestive troubles
- Sinus pain
If you have private insurance, seeing your primary care doctor is also the friendliest choice for your wallet because your co-pay will be less expensive than a trip to the ER. If you don’t currently have a primary care doctor, use our tool to find a doctor who speaks your language and is close to your work or home.
When to Visit Urgent Care
According to the Urgent Care Association of America, more than 88 million people visit urgent care centers each year.
If your illness or injury is not an emergency, your primary care doctor’s office is closed (nights, weekends, holidays), and/or you believe the situation cannot wait, urgent care is your best option. Urgent care centers have the equipment to handle severe but non-emergency situations.
Urgent care centers are the best call for conditions that include:
- Sprains and strains
- Broken bones that have not broken the skin
- Minor cuts or rashes
- Animal bites
- High fevers
- Ear infections
- Urinary infections
With private insurance, visiting an urgent care center will cost you more than seeing your regular doctor, but can save you hundreds of dollars (or more) over an ER visit. Make sure that the urgent care center you visit is in your plan’s network to avoid additional charges.
We have a network of AltaMed and affiliated urgent care centers throughout Southern California. Find one near you now.
When to Go to the ER
The emergency room is for real medical emergencies—the staff and equipment are there to provide life-saving care for extreme cases. For severe medical situations, you can call 911 or visit an emergency room. Most hospital emergency rooms are open 24 hours per day, seven days a week.
The ER is the correct destination if you or a loved one is experiencing:
- A severe injury or major trauma, including a severe cut or burn
- Stroke or heart attack
- Loss of consciousness
- A seizure
- Difficulty breathing
- Trouble speaking
- Dizziness and loss of coordination
- A head injury
- Broken bones that puncture the skin
- Heavy bleeding
Depending on what kind of insurance you have, a trip to the ER can cost you thousands of dollars, so be sure to reserve these visits for real emergencies. However, if you are experiencing any of the symptoms or conditions above, do not hesitate! Go to the ER.
One Last Note About Medical Treatment Options
Obviously, if you have a severe cut, are bleeding, or you are suffering a significant bodily injury, GET TO THE ER, STAT! But if you need help figuring out the right place to go for treatment, call AltaMed at 888-499-9303.
Remember that your primary care doctor should always be your first call—they know you best and will ensure that your care is consistent. Leave urgent care and the ER for those times when you are experiencing more serious difficulties or emergencies.