You Need a Doctor. How Do You Decide the Best Place for Care?

December 09, 2021

Tips for Choosing Between Primary Care, Urgent Care and the Emergency Room

Milton, MA – You may have heard that hospitals are busier than ever. You’ve just slipped in your driveway and think you may have sprained or broken your ankle. You need to see a doctor. But where? Should you go to the nearest emergency room, or to urgent care? Should you call your primary care physician?

“If you are experiencing potentially life-threatening symptoms, go to the emergency room or call 911,” recommends Barbara Masser, MD, chief medical officer of Urgent Care at Beth Israel Lahey Health Care Center - Quincy. “For non-urgent or non-life-threatening symptoms, visiting your primary care physician or going to an urgent care center may be a better option.”

When to Contact Your Primary Care Physician

Primary care physicians know their patients and their patients’ medical history best. They can diagnose and treat non-urgent conditions such as minor infections, headaches, muscle pains, minor scrapes and bruises.

“Primary care doctors know a patient’s medical history and are a valuable resource in helping them to effectively manage their care,” said Sheila Barnett, MD, chief medical officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital–Milton (BID Milton). “For some conditions, telehealth may also be an option, allowing the patient to have an appointment with their provider in the comfort of their own home.”

Examples of care available through primary care:

  • Cold, flu and sore throat
  • Ear, sinus or urinary tract infection
  • Headaches and muscle pains
  • Stomach pains, nausea, diarrhea, or constipation
  • Minor scrapes or bruises
  • Managing chronic diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure

BID Milton is a part of Beth Israel Lahey Health. To find a Beth Israel Lahey Health primary care physician near you, please visit the BILH Find a Doctor website. Primary care appointments are also available at Beth Israel Lahey Health Care Center – Quincy, by calling 617-615-4100.

When to Go to the Urgent Care Center

For non-emergent injuries that are beyond the scope of primary care but don’t rise to the level of emergency care, urgent care centers are also an option. Urgent care centers can perform a multitude of tests, most locations perform x-rays and labs tests, and many offer IV fluids and medications. Additionally, visiting an urgent care center can save you time and money.

“Urgent care is an important option to deliver near-immediate care for many non-emergent injuries and illnesses,” said Masser. “Right now, the average wait time in the emergency department can be a number of hours, compared to typically a shorter wait at an urgent care center. And at Beth Israel Lahey Health Care Center – Quincy, patients will be seen by board-certified emergency medicine physicians affiliated with Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital–Milton, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School.”

Examples of care available through urgent care:

  • Sprains
  • Minor animal bites or stings
  • Minor cuts or burns
  • Dehydration
  • Pink eye
  • Rashes or other skin issues
  • Primary care concerns (if unable to see primary care provider)

Some urgent care centers even offer the ability to reserve a place in line, online, so patients can wait from the comfort of their own homes. For appointments at Beth Israel Lahey Health Urgent Care – Quincy, patients can reserve a place in line, online, or by calling 617-615-4000. Beth Israel Lahey Health Urgent Care – Quincy is located at 100 Walter J. Hannon Parkway in Quincy and is conveniently located next to public transportation, including the MBTA Red Line, Quincy Center Stop and MBTA bus lines 225 and 236.

For more information and a list of other Beth Israel Lahey Health-affiliated urgent care centers, please visit the BILH Urgent Care website and choose a location that is convenient for you.

When to Go to the Emergency Department at the Hospital

For managing chronic illnesses or cold and flu symptoms, start with a call to your primary care physician’s office. For that sprained or broken ankle, rash, and other mild-to-moderate symptoms, going to urgent care can save you time and money. Patients needing more complex emergency care should call 911 or seek care at the closest the emergency department.

“Our hospital is busier than it’s ever been, which means that wait times for the emergency room can stretch for hours depending on the patient’s symptoms and needs as we work to manage the health and safety of all of our patients,” said Rich Fernandez, president of BID Milton. “We want our patients to know their options. An urgent care center is one. Your primary care physician is another. Sometimes your only option is the emergency room.”

Examples of care available through the emergency department:

  • Chest pain or difficulty breathing
  • Serious burns, cuts, or lacerations
  • Broken bones or dislocated joints
  • Fainting, changes in mental state, or slurred speech
  • Head or eye injuries
  • Weakness and/or numbness in one side
  • You should also visit the emergency department if another provider instructs you to do so, or if it’s your only option at the current time and location.

About Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital–Milton

Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital–Milton (BID Milton) is a member of Beth Israel Lahey Health, a health care system that brings together academic medical centers and teaching hospitals, community and specialty hospitals. More than 4,700 physicians and 39,000 employees share in a mission to expand access to great care and advance the science and practice of medicine through groundbreaking research and education.

Media Relations Manager

Kristina Murray

Please note: The contact information above is for journalists and news media only. For patient care and all other inquiries, please contact your doctor or BID Milton directly.