Choosing Between Visiting a Doctor or an Emergency Room

Dr. Farizani
December 6, 2022
Every time a person is sick, they have to struggle with the decision of making an appointment with their primary care doctor, visiting an urgent care clinic, or seeking emergency care. According to Premier, about 30% of emergency department visits among patients with common chronic conditions are potentially unnecessary, leading to $8.3 billion in additional costs for the industry. 

The unnecessary visits to the emergency room could be avoided by assessing the severity of your symptoms to prevent the overwhelming cost of emergency care or long lines for mild illnesses or injuries. It’s crucial to listen to your body when deciding if your symptoms warrant a trip to your primary care physician, urgent care clinic, or the emergency department. Continue reading to learn how to choose between visiting a doctor or the emergency room. 

When Should I Go to the Emergency Room? 

Emergency care is designed for treating emergency situations or life-threatening conditions that cannot be treated at an urgent care clinic or with your primary care doctor. An emergency department has immediate or advanced treatments, including surgery, only available in a hospital setting. 

It’s important to remember that emergency rooms are vastly more expensive, costing anywhere from $150-$3,000 or more, depending on the severity of the condition and what diagnostic tests and treatments are performed.

Visit your local emergency department immediately if you or your loved one is experiencing the following:

  • Choking
  • Pain in the chest, left arm, or left jaw 
  • Serious burns and cuts (cuts that won’t stop bleeding or wounds that won’t close)
  • Having breathing difficulties or has stopped breathing
  • Suffering from a head injury, particularly if it’s causing fainting or confusion
  • Suffering from a neck or spine injury, especially if it’s accompanied by loss of feeling or inability
  • Suffering from an electric shock or lightning strike
  • Severely burned
  • Having severe chest pain or pressure
  • Having a seizure(s) that lasts between three and five seconds
  • Multiple injuries or a possible broken bone in areas like the ribs, skull, face, or pelvis
  • If you’re pregnant and have vaginal bleeding or pelvic/abdominal pain

When Should I Go to an Urgent Care Clinic

Urgent care clinics are perfect when you can’t reach your primary care physician or need care outside their regular office hours. They are usually walk-in clinics, with no appointment required. The average urgent care visits range from $100 to $150, depending on the patient’s copay and level of treatment. 

An urgent care center is staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants and can treat simple medical problems, like the cold and flu, to ear infections. They also have physicians on staff that can provide care for a greater range of conditions, including performing X-rays.

Visit your local urgent care clinic immediately if you or your loved one is experiencing the following:

  • Fevers and colds
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath 
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Strains or simple bone breaks
  • Minor cuts
  • Mild asthma attacks
  • Pain with urination

When Should I Go to My Primary Care Doctor

Your primary care doctor should be your first point of contact in non-emergency situations. They know the entirety of your medical history: past and current medical problems to medications that you are taking or have taken. 

A trip to your primary care physician avoids long wait times and saves you more than a fraction of the cost of an emergency care unit. The typical co-pay for a primary care visit ranges from $15 to $25. However, without health insurance, it can cost $300–$600, still significantly less expensive than a trip to the emergency room. 

Make an appointment with your primary care doctor if you or your loved one is experiencing the following:

  • Cold or flu symptoms
  • Sore throats
  • Sprains
  • Minor cuts and burns 
  • Eye injuries
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Fever or rashes
  • Minor cuts and burns
  • Painful urination
  • Rashes without fever
  • Regular physicals, vaccinations, and screenings

Choose Hillcroft Physicians

Always start with a phone call to your primary care physician; they can quickly decipher if your illness or injuries require a doctor or emergency room visit. Moving forward, this will help avoid unnecessary trips to the emergency care unit and overall save you money. 

President of Paragon Medical Management, Hamid Razavi, is the CEO of Hillcroft Physicians, and his wife, Dr. Forough Farizani, is the clinic’s medical director. At Hillcroft Physicians, we are committed to humanizing healthcare: prioritizing our patients, accepting over 50 health insurance plans, having multilingual doctors, and an on-site pharmacy. Next time you’re experiencing mild illness or injuries, call and make an appointment with Hillcroft Physicians. 

Dr. Farizani

Dr. Farizani created the medical and operational foundation of Hillcroft Physicians, PA., and expanded the clinic and its mission to become one of the largest small group practices in Houston. Dr. Farizani speaks English, Farsi, and Spanish.