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Urgent Care vs. Primary Care: Why Primary Care is Your First Choice

family medicine

If you have difficulty breathing or are facing a life-threatening condition such as a heart attack or stroke, call 911 or go directly to the emergency room (ER).Your choice in a life-threatening situation is clear. But what about routine and non-life-threatening medical conditions? Should you go to an urgent care facility or visit a primary care practice? Which option is right for you?

If you’re asking these questions, then read on to learn the differences between urgent care and primary care. And why seeing a primary care physician should be your first choice.   

Should I Go to Urgent Care or Primary Care?  

Based on a 2019 urgent care study, there are more than 9,000 urgent care centers across the United States. Most of them take same-day appointments, and some stay open 24 hours. Urgent care facilities treat various non-life-threatening medical conditions like broken bones, flu-like symptoms, or minor allergic reactions. Although urgent care clinics are convenient, they should not take the place of your regular primary care physician.  

Urgent care should not replace your primary care physician.

While urgent care centers provide a wide breadth of medical treatment options, you will not find specialists or chronic health experts. According to Reader’s Digest, you may not always get the best medical help from urgent care doctors. Compared to primary care physicians, urgent care doctors focus on treating acute medical problems promptly rather than getting to the root of the problem. If you need to visit an urgent care facility, be sure to ask them to forward your treatment records to your primary care physician.  

Although urgent care facilities serve as walk-in clinics, not all walk-in clinics are considered urgent care facilities. Walk-in clinics typically exist in pharmacies like CVS or Walgreens and provide basic medical care and treatment options. Most retail walk-in clinics assist with flu-like symptoms, minor cuts, strep throat, flu shots, and in some cases, annual physical exams.

What is Primary Care?

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), primary care doctors are trained in comprehensive first contact and continuous care for people with any undiagnosed sign, symptom, or health concerns.

Primary care physicians are specialists in Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, or Pediatrics. These doctors specialize in:

  • Chronic and acute diseases
  • Diabetes and hypertension  
  • General health maintenance 
  • Patient education
  • Overall wellness

Why you need a primary care physician 

Your primary healthcare provider should be your first point of contact for any medical concerns. Since they have your medical history on file, they’re able to make informed decisions on the best treatment plan. That’s why establishing routine wellness visits, especially yearly physicals, are crucial for maintaining your overall health. Regular visits also allow your primary care doctor to know you and treat any ongoing medical conditions.

Primary care practices offer a variety of services, including: 

  • Routine wellness check-ups 
  • Annual physical exams 
  • Flu shots and Immunizations  
  • Diabetes and wellness care 
  • Hypertension management  

If primary care physicians can’t help you, they’ll connect you with specialists who can and stay involved to make sure you’re getting the best care possible. Primary care doctors can also recommend prescriptions and send them directly to your pharmacy.  

Primary Care Visits Cost Less 

Compared to urgent and emergency care, primary care visits are significantly less expensive. Many insurance companies cover primary care procedures and may offer free annual wellness visits or flu shots. Depending on your insurance, average co-pays for primary care visits range from $20-$50. Visits without insurance can cost between $100-$150 depending on your situation. That’s why insurance provider BlueCross BlueShield says your primary care doctor should be your first call in non-emergency situations.

Your primary care doctor should be your first call in non-emergency situations.

Blue Cross Blue Shield

Mason Park Medical Clinic is here for you

If you need a primary care physician, then you’ve come to the right place. Dr. Quyen TrinhDO, is committed to helping every patient stay healthy and maintain a good quality of life. At Mason Park Medical Clinic, our patients’ healthcare is our top priority. 

Call us at (281) 646-0740 to schedule an appointment, or if you prefer, you can schedule an appointment online now. For your convenience, we also provide telehealth and telemedicine options as well as COVID-19 antibody testing.