Where Do I Go?
It always seems like children develop an unexplained fever, get a broken bone, or break out in a questionable rash after your primary care provider’s office is closed. Not only do the circumstances leave patients grimacing, they often leave caregivers wondering, “Where do I go?”
Knowing whether to go to your regular doctor, the InstaCare or the emergency room is important to help you get the best and most appropriate care. Knowing where to go can save money, time and even your life.
Call your primary care doctor first, if it’s not a life-threatening emergency. Your primary care physician (PCP) is a great resource. Many times PCPs keep appointments available throughout the day for acute needs. Your PCP should be the one to manage chronic (long-term) conditions, refill prescriptions, and order and follow-up on routine labs such as cholesterol screening. Consult with your PCP early on if something is gradually getting worse so that it doesn’t become an emergency. Since your primary care doctor knows you and your health history, it’s worth attempting to receive medicalClinics.org attention and counsel from him or her first. However, there are times when you may need care sooner than can be arranged with your PCP, including during evenings and holidays. There are also illnesses and conditions that may be life-threatening and can become severe if not cared for urgently.
What is InstaCare?
InstaCare is an urgent care service provided at many Intermountain Healthcare facilities where a patient can be seen typically within a couple of hours. InstaCare also has extended hours including evenings, weekends and holidays. Hours of operation vary between facilities. Depending on insurance, there may be an additional fee associated with InstaCare, but the cost is still much less than going to the emergency room.
When should I visit an InstaCare clinic?
Intermountain InstaCare clinics are well equipped to treat urgent conditions and injuries that are not life threatening. X-rays and a few basic lab tests are available such as strep and influenza tests.
Conditions treated at an InstaCare include:
> Minor infections such as urinary tract infections, strep throat, ear infections, skin infections, influenza
> Cuts that do not involve tendons or joints
> Sprains and broken bones
> Minor burns
> Small foreign bodies in eyes, ears, nose
> Nose bleeds
> Migraine headaches
For better care and convenience, Intermountain InstaCare clinics offer a call-ahead program. Prior to your visit, call your local InstaCare clinic to receive an arrival time that fits your schedule. Once you arrive, check in with the receptionist and expect a shorter wait time to see a physician. As always, patients with certain serious conditions may need to be seen ahead of patients with minor conditions.
You can also download the Intermountain Health Hub App to your smart phone or tablet. It includes the nearest InstaCare clinics to your location, provides estimated waiting times, helps with directions, and much more. It will also allow you to reserve a place in line in a manner similar to the call-ahead service mentioned above. Find the app and more about individual locations and hours by visiting instacare.org.
The Emergency Room
If the situation is severe or potentially life-threatening, go directly to the emergency room. Most likely, you’ll know right away if the ER is where you need to be. While it is better to err on the side of caution, ERs are full of people with colds, strep throat and other problems that are not emergencies. Remember, immediate medical attention saves lives and reduces permanent disability when it comes to strokes or heart attacks. The emergency room has the ability to do labs and imaging that are not available at an InstaCare. Additionally, specialists can be called in to evaluate and manage patients in the ER. For example, an orthopedic surgeon may be needed for a serious fracture, but would not be available in an InstaCare.
Reasons to go to the ER include:
> Difficulty breathing (from any cause, including infection, allergic reaction, asthma attack, etc.)
> Broken bones protruding from the skin, severe head or neck injuries
> Bluish color to lips
> Chest pain
> Numbness or weakness on one side of the body
> Sudden onset speech problems or confusion
> Severe unexplained headache, especially if associated with vomiting
> Severe pain
> Altered or unexplained loss of consciousness
> Bleeding during pregnancy
> Heavy bleeding that won’t stop
> Fever above 105 degrees
> Fever in a newborn under 8 weeks old of 100.4 or higher
> Drug overdose
> Serious mental illness where there is potential for harm to the patient or others (consider calling police)
Calling 911 is appropriate if the condition could worsen or become life threatening on the way to the ER. For example, after a heart attack, a dangerous abnormal heart rhythm could develop, and an ambulance would have life-saving medications and equipment such as a defibrillator to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm. Calling 911 would also be appropriate where moving the patient could cause further harm such as with a spinal injury.
Generally speaking, if it can wait, go to your PCP. If it can’t wait and is not life threatening, InstaCare is a good choice. If it is potentially life threatening, call 911 or go to the ER. If it is clearly life-threatening, call 911. If you’re still unsure about whether to go to your primary care doctor, an InstaCare or the Emergency Room, call your local Intermountain InstaCare to discuss your particular situation. Knowledgeable InstaCare staff can advise you.