Deciding where to go for medical care when you or someone in your family is sick is very stressful. You want answers to your questions and appropriate treatment as fast as possible. Should you go to the emergency department? Urgent care? Doctor’s office? Here’s a little advice from Vibrant Health’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kelly Kreisler.
Having a primary care provider you trust and who knows you and your family is the first step in the process. This is particularly true if someone has a chronic disease, like diabetes or asthma, but it is important even for healthy individuals. Most minor illnesses can be treated in the office during business hours. Many doctor’s offices, like Vibrant Health, will even offer evening and weekend hours and access for questions after-hours to help you decide when and where to seek care, so you are not alone when illness strikes.
Illnesses like ear infections, common colds, and fevers are best treated in your primary care provider’s office. This is also true of minor injuries or painful conditions, like ankle sprains and low back pain. Advantages of being seen in the primary care provider’s office include shorter wait times, less cost, and easy access to your entire medical record.
Urgent cares provide access when you just can’t get an appointment at your doctor’s office that works for you. They won’t have access to your entire medical record and don’t provide follow up care. Urgent Care centers are generally more expensive than your primary care provider and less expensive than an emergency department. They may only treat certain ages or certain conditions, so it’s best to check before going.
Severe injuries and illnesses are best treated in the emergency department. Examples include falls resulting in a bone sticking out of the skin or suspected heart attacks. In 2014, less than 10% of visits to emergency departments were for true emergencies. Most often visits were for minor illnesses like ear infection and fever. Although fever is in the top ten reasons for visiting the emergency department, it is rarely an emergency. In infants under two months old or people with a weak immune system, fever can indicate a severe infection and requires immediate attention, but in otherwise healthy individuals, fever is simply the body’s way of fighting infection and the sign of a healthy immune system. A quick call to your doctor’s office can provide the reassurance needed to know you are making the right decision.
There is a great book I recommend to parents for making these decisions about your children. It is available in multiple languages: What To Do When Your Child Gets Sick
As always, if you’re a Vibrant Health patient, never hesitate to call us at 913-342-2552 if you have questions about you or your child’s health. We’re always happy to help you decide what treatment is best for your specific situation.
Kelly Kreisler, MD, MPH, FAAP, is a board certified pediatrician who has been in practice since 2002, and the chief medical officer of Vibrant Health. She is currently a general pediatrics faculty member at KUMC, where her clinical and research focus is medically underserved children, particularly immigrants and refugees. She serves on the board of the Kansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, where she serves on the public policy committee. Dr. Kreisler has four children, two dogs, and a husband with superhuman patience.