Choosing Primary Care vs. Urgent Care for Treating Ailments: What You Need to Know

A young primary care physician speaks with a patient about a prescription for an urgent medical care issue

Nobody likes a medical emergency. There are moments, however, when someone’s condition requires immediate medical attention. Because injuries or ailments can feel imminent and scary, it can often be difficult to decide whether urgent care is the right way to go or whether it can wait for a visit with the primary doctor. If you feel like your medical issue is an emergency, it might be best to be cautious. 

Below we’ve compiled a few tips to help you decide whether you should visit Primary Care or Urgent Care in El Paso for your specific ailments. 

If you are looking for a trusted primary care doctor in El Paso, consider making an appointment with Transmountain Primary. Our office treats a wide array of ailments. Call us today to learn more! 915-248-2345

Understanding Urgent Care vs. Primary Care 

While often overlapping, primary care and urgent care have their different functions. Primary care is generally a family physician or internist who sees patients regularly, monitoring health over any amount of time and helping patients make decisions about specialized care when something specific arises. 

Urgent care acts as a convenient stop between the emergency room and the family physician. It is often the case that some acute illnesses or injuries require on-the-spot attention, though they might not be life-threatening.

Urgent care centers emerged after the realization that a need existed to treat patients in a more immediate setting that would eliminate or diminish the long waits in ERs that often resulted in astronomical medical bills. Sometimes, people needed immediate care without it being life-threatening. 

While there is a lot of overlap between urgent care and primary care, there are two key differences. Those are: 

  • How quickly a patient must be seen?
  • The possible need for a specialist or immediate referral to a specialist 

When is Primary Care Appropriate? 

Primary care is for general and non-emergency long-term care. Ideally, your general physician will see you for routine exams, check-ups, and the monitoring of long-term health conditions or healthcare plans. 

The idea behind having a trusted primary care doctor is for them to provide consistent care throughout time. With consistent and regular care, the primary physician can learn your medical history and become acquainted with health concerns or health patterns that are unique to you. 

Thanks to their knowledge of your medical history, a primary care physician has a more in-depth insight into any changing circumstances.

Benefits of Primary Care

The benefits of having a primary care doctor include the following: 

  • A gained familiarity with a physician and increased comfort in communication. 
  • A physician who knows your family history, medical history, and external circumstances that might impact your health: such as occupational risks, hereditary risks, etc. 
  • Clear communication with a physician who is familiar with your lifestyle, personality, and medical preferences. 
  • The ability to get yearly physicals and blood work done to paint a larger picture of overall health overtime 

When is Urgent Care Appropriate? 

The name says it all. Most of the ailments or injuries treated in urgent care can also be treated by your primary care physician. The difference is timing, necessity, and urgency. 

It’s not always easy to get an immediate appointment in a primary care physician’s office, especially if it is on weekends, holidays, or after-hours. That’s when urgent care comes in.

Common reasons people seek attention at an urgent care include:

  • Acute injuries such as sprains and strains
  • Cold and flu symptoms 
  • Food poisoning 
  • Infections such as pink eye or urinary tract infections 
  • Sore throat and pain 
  • Burns or open wounds 
  • Broken bones 
  • Insect bites 
  • Bad allergic reactions 

How to Know If You Need Urgent Care

This is a tricky question because every situation is different. It can often be difficult to tell whether it’s best to wait or seek medical attention. When a person is in doubt about whether they should wait or not, it is often better to side with caution and advise them to seek medical attention. 

The good news is that an urgent care center can often treat some of these minor emergencies and more carefully advise a patient on what they should do next. 

If you visit your urgent care, you can always pay a visit to your primary care physician afterward if you need a follow-up with someone who knows your medical history and situation. 

If you feel that your situation is not urgent and you have a trusted primary care physician, make an appointment with them as soon as possible. You can let the office staff know that you would like the earliest appointment. 

In the end, knowing the difference between urgent care and primary care can help you make the decision if you are unsure. 

Find a Trusted Primary Care Provider in El Paso, TX

Having a primary care physician who treats you regularly is an advantage. Not only do you develop a relationship with a physician and establish good communication, but you have someone you trust to help guide you with medical decisions and lifestyle changes. So, whether you’re looking for help with diabetes treatment, weight loss planning, or just need a doctor you can trust, our primary care clinic is here! 

For primary care in El Paso, contact the office at Transmountain Primary Care.

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