In a typical insurance-based primary care office, patients are scheduled months in advance, and there are no appointments available if you get sick or injured. When patients call for an appointment, they are told to visit an urgent care, where they often wait for hours in a waiting room filled with patients with highly infectious illnesses, like influenza and strep. A trip to urgent care for an injury this week may lead to a second urgent care visit for the flu next week. These visits are necessary if you have a fracture, need stitches, need an abscess drained, or have a fish hook embedded in your skin. It’s also important to be seen urgently for strep, for an ear infection, for a UTI, for pneumonia or bronchitis. Patients with chronic conditions like asthma, COPD or congestive heart failure can experience sudden worsening of their symptoms which can be addressed in urgent care to prevent further worsening and need for hospitalization. All of these issues are best addressed by your own primary care physician, but if this is not possible, urgent care is the next best option.
If you have symptoms of a serious medical condition like a heart attack or stroke, you need to go straight to the Emergency Room. The same is true if you are having severe abdominal pain, which could be appendicitis or another serious condition. On the other hand, if you’re having mild abdominal cramps with vomiting and diarrhea, this is a viral illness, for which there is no treatment. Staying home and drinking Gatorade is your best bet. If you have a cold or sinus infection, this is typically viral; it’s best to stay home and take over-the-counter cold medications for your symptoms.
If you’re a Direct Primary Care patient, you have the perfect solution right at your fingertips. You can easily call or text your personal physician to get instant medical advice on cold and flu symptoms, injuries, pain, UTI and rashes. Many conditions can be diagnosed and treated remotely. Telemedicine works best when it’s provided by a doctor who already knows you and your medical history. The best part about being a DPC patient, is that if you do need to be seen in person, your doctor can usually see you right away.