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ED or Urgent Care: Here’s Where to Go When

doctor and patient in ER

Whether you’ve come down with the flu or sprained an ankle, you know you need to seek medical attention right away. The question that comes next is where. While emergency departments provide immediate care, they’re not the only option available. Urgent care centers can also handle many pressing, but less serious situations.

The next time you’re debating where to go, here’s what to keep in mind:

Go to the ED when you need immediate diagnosis and care.

“The Emergency Department at Chestnut Hill Hospital is staffed with board-certified emergency medicine physicians, and we are here to serve you 24/7/365, whenever you need us,” notes Lee Jablow, MD, Medical Director, Department of Emergency Medicine, Chestnut Hill Hospital. Emergency departments not only have highly skilled emergency physicians to treat your most serious conditions such as heart attack, stroke, respiratory failure and broken bones, but also have specialists on-call, 24-hour CT scan capabilities and other diagnostic and treatment options available. “The ED can handle anything, any time of day,” Dr. Jablow says.

Go to urgent care if it’s not a true emergency.

If you have a condition that you feel could wait, such as one you may normally see your family doctor for, you may enjoy trying an urgent care center instead. You can access urgent care without an appointment and simply walk in. “Tower Health recognizes that not every condition needs the level of care provided in an emergency department, and we are proud to have more than 22 different urgent care centers close to your home,” says Dr. Jablow. If you can “stop for lunch on the way,” he adds, you may want to head to urgent care. Providers there can diagnose and treat common conditions like coughs, colds, earaches, minor sprains and urinary tract infections. Besides taking patients’ histories and conducting physical exams, some urgent care centers can conduct basic blood work, test urine and take X-rays.

Urgent care may be faster.

“Most patients who come to urgent care are in and out within the hour,” Dr. Jablow says. “That includes the registration process, the triage process, seeing the provider and discharge instructions.” The “door-to-doctor” time at Chestnut Hill Hospital’s ED averages around 18 minutes, while it make take several hours to see a physician at other local EDs. Chestnut Hill Hospital’s ED also includes an eight-bed Fast Track, so you may find yourself with a surprisingly quick visit to the ED while still having access to world-class specialists in emergency medicine. 

Wherever you go, always advocate for your health.

If you’re unsure of where to go, your best bet is often the ED. “When we’re sick and we’re not feeling well, it’s hard to have good insight,” Dr. Jablow says. “Most of the time, we downplay our symptoms, even when we are at our most vulnerable.” If you think you’re suffering from a heart attack, stroke or life-threatening condition, always call 911 and get to the closest emergency department.

For professional and prompt care, find a Tower Health urgent care center or emergency department near you.