Primary Care, Urgent Care or Emergency Room?

Dec 20, 2023

Understanding what type of healthcare provider to see when experiencing symptoms of an illness or an injury is a crucial step in getting the best care possible. Going to an emergency room when a situation is not an actual emergency will often cost the patient more time and money than visiting a primary care provider or an urgent care clinic. Conversely, waiting until a situation becomes a true emergency before addressing it can create more problems in the long run.

The guidelines and considerations below can help patients decide where to go to get the most effective care and treatment for their situation. The Care Clinic is also available anytime, 24/7, to help patients determine the best option for their medical care needs. Call the Main Clinic, 970-668-4040, to speak with a provider.

When to see a primary care provider

Primary care providers offer preventative care and manage chronic conditions. Community health centers, like Summit Community Care Clinic, remove many financial and logistical obstacles to being seen by qualified healthcare professionals. A primary care provider can address a wide variety of health issues before they become an emergency.

In addition to long-term illness management for conditions like arthritis, high blood pressure, and diabetes, the Care Clinic can handle acute (short-term) complaints like flu symptoms, sore throat, or ear pain, small cuts that might need stitches, insect bites, minor burns, fevers (without a rash), minor allergic reactions and asthma, urinary tract infections, stomach distress, and more. Appointments for acute illnesses and injuries can generally be scheduled within 24 hours. The clinic’s in-house pharmacy located in the Main Clinic in Frisco, provides even easier access to treatment.

When to go to urgent care

Urgent care is equipped to handle a similar level of acute or short-term illnesses and injuries as a primary care provider and is likely to be open during times that a primary care clinic is not. Urgent care clinics typically have imaging capabilities such as x-rays and have more capacity for walk-in appointments. For non-life or limb threatening situations, an urgent care clinic can often admit patients faster than an emergency room can and is also less expensive.

When to go to the Emergency Room

While primary care and urgent care providers can handle many types of illnesses and injuries, it is important to identify life or limb-threatening conditions and situations that require an emergency room visit. If a patient experiences a symptom (or multiple symptoms) that are new, severe, sudden, or persistent, do not delay care.

Call 911 or go the emergency room for:

  • ·   Head and spinal injuries; open fractures; fractures with deformity, numbness, or turning blue; severe cuts or burns; or uncontrollable bleeding.
  • ·   Symptoms of heart attack like chest pain or pressure, shortness of breath
  • ·   Symptoms of a stroke- like sudden loss of balance or vision, face drooping, arm weakness, slurred speech
  • ·   Seizures
  • ·   Severe allergic reactions (even if an epi-pen has been administered)
  • ·   Acute, prolonged loss of consciousness
  • ·   Severe, persistent abdominal pain
  • ·   Poisoning or overdose
  • ·   Choking or difficulty breathing
  • ·    Fever in infants less than 3 months old and elderly individuals
  • ·    Mental/behavioral health crisis

Know before you go

Keeping lower acuity visits out of the emergency room frees up resources for those who need them most. Understanding the options available for medical treatment and learning about the signs and symptoms of emergency situations can provide more efficient treatment and better overall health outcomes for patients.

Additional information about our medical services may be found on the Medical page of our website.


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