Primary Care Vs. Urgent Care: What’s the Difference?

Have you ever needed immediate medical care for something but weren’t sure where to go? Should you go to your primary care doctor? An urgent care? The emergency room?

The choice to go to the emergency room is simple. Emergency care is needed in situations that involve chest pain, difficulty breathing, unconsciousness, severe headache, severe dizziness, severe vomiting, bleeding that will not stop, or a broken bone that sticks out of the skin.

For health concerns and medical issues that are not that serious, here is a closer look at how primary care and urgent care differ; and how to make sure you are choosing the right form of care to meet your needs.

Primary Care

Primary care includes health care providers, usually family-medicine doctors, internists, and pediatricians, trained and skilled in health maintenance, patient education, and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses.

Patients, like you, usually choose a doctor through their health insurance provider’s website based on who is in-network, accepting new patients, and is located close to their home or office.

To see a primary care doctor, you must schedule a visit. These offices do not accept walk-ins. In addition to performing annual physical exams, primary care doctors also diagnose and treat minor illnesses and injuries. However, for medical situations that arise suddenly or after hours or on weekends, it can be difficult or impossible to schedule an appointment with a primary care physician. It is not advised to delay medical care if you cannot connect with your primary care doctor as it could lead to increased pain or discomfort.

It is interesting to note that visits to primary care doctors are on the decline. Patients are turning to urgent care centers for more of their health needs — rather than just emergencies. The top three reasons given by patients for not visiting a PCP include that it took too long to get an appointment, unbearable wait time at the doctor’s office, and no walk-in appointments available.

Urgent Care

In most cases, urgent care can provide the same level of care as a primary care doctor’s office. However, the major difference there is no need to schedule an appointment, and you can be seen the very same day you realize you need medical attention. Urgent care clinics offer extended hours during the week, plus weekend appointments and even holidays. They also take most major insurance, just like primary care— but there is usually no need to worry about whether the clinic is in-network.

Some of the conditions you can seek help with at urgent care centers include:

  • Upper respiratory problems, such as sore throat, earache, or sinus symptoms
  • Non-life-threatening allergic reactions
  • Minor skin infections and rashes
  • Minor burns
  • Insect bites
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Minor cuts, contusions, or abrasions

Some urgent care centers, like American Family Care® (AFC), offer primary care services such as annual physical exams and vaccinations without the need for an appointment. AFC provides the same services as a primary care physician without lengthy waiting times or confined schedules. Our physicians are experienced in treating patients of all ages, including infants and seniors.

So next time you have an urgent medical issue or just need a general check-up, head over to the nearest AFC and get the right care for you when you need it.

Click here to find your local American Family Care.

AFC CORPORATE OFFICE

3700 Cahaba Beach Road Birmingham, AL 35242

Our Mission and Values:

Our mission is to provide the best healthcare possible in a kind and caring environment, in an economical manner, while respecting the rights of all of our patients, at times and locations convenient to the patient.

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