Primary Care or Urgent Care? How to Make the Right Choice
Urgent care centers and walk in clinics are relatively new health care choices. In the last 10 years many new clinics have opened across the country and in Nashville, however, determining when to visit an urgent care clinic or walk in medical center can be confusing, especially if you have a primary care doctor. Read more to learn about the differences between urgent care and primary care as well as how to make the right health care choice for your needs.
What is Urgent Care?
The term urgent care was first added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2017. Urgent care is defined as “medical care provided for illnesses or injuries which require prompt attention but are typically not of such seriousness as to require the services of an emergency room.” At Complete Urgent Care, we recommend urgent care visits for new illnesses or injuries that need same-day evaluation and treatment such as:
- Strep throat
- Possible pneumonia
- Mild-moderate abdominal pain
- Cuts that require stitches
- Eye & skin infections
- Sprains/strains/fractures that haven’t broken the skin
These are things you are certain don’t require a visit to the emergency room, but that don’t need to wait days or weeks for your primary care provider to schedule you. Unsure if your injury or illness requires an urgent care or emergency room visit? Visit the emergency room for life or limb-threatening events such as chest pain, strokes, seizures, suspected poisoning, displaced or open wound fractures, uncontrollable bleeding, shortness of breath, mental status change or head injury. For more information, check out Dr. Mickiewicz’s blog post on this topic.
What is Primary Care?
Primary care providers (PCPs) are the quarterback of your health care team. They manage your care long-term, make and manage referrals to specialists and help you plan for the future. Primary care is one of the most important aspects of your health and should be established by all adults after their pediatrician will no longer see them as a patient. It is especially important for patients with chronic diseases or conditions that need regular testing and management. Primary care is always the choice for management of chronic illnesses. It is incredibly important to have a PCP for management of:
- High blood pressure
- Thyroid disease
- Heart disease
- Chronic kidney disease
- High cholesterol
These are conditions that need to be monitored over time, and the attention of a long-term provider is most necessary.
When to Choose Urgent Care
Urgent care should be the choice if you need quick, same day care, don’t require a trip to the emergency room and don’t have a primary care provider. If you do have a primary care doctor, the decision to visit an urgent care or walk in clinic can be more difficult. Your primary care physician knows you and your medical history, however many internal medicine and family medicine practices stay booked and cannot see you when you have an urgent illness or injury. Most primary care clinics also do not have weekend or evening hours which limits when they can see you for urgent after-hours concerns. Some primary care offices don’t have onsite X-Ray or complete procedures such as stitches, so an urgent care visit may be the most efficient option for certain injuries and illnesses. If you have an injury or illness and your primary care clinic can’t fit you into their schedule, a visit to an urgent care or walk-in clinic is appropriate.
When to Choose Primary Care
A primary care clinic visit is most appropriate for managing your long-term medical health as well as same-day treatment of illnesses and some injuries when your provider is available. Your PCP knows your medical history and can help steer a long-term plan especially if your illness or injury is connected to other medical conditions. If you think you need a medication change, a visit to your primary care provider is the best decision because they know how you have responded to medications in the past. Your primary care provider should conduct your annual physical as well as steer recommendations for specialists. While urgent care clinics can provide prescription refills and help during a chronic disease crisis, urgent care is not a replacement for primary care.
About Complete Health Partners
Our West Nashville health clinic opened in 2017 simply as an urgent care/walk in clinic. However as our patients expressed needs that we couldn’t meet as a walk in clinic, we designed a more complete care model and Complete Health Partners was born. Now offering urgent care, primary care and sports medicine, we are a medical home for our West Nashville community. Our urgent care clinic is open 9am to 7pm, 7 days a week, so you know we are always here everyday if you need us. There is no need to check a schedule or call ahead, as long as it isn’t a major holiday, you can walk in any time and be seen the same day. Because we know not everyone has insurance, we believe in transparent healthcare pricing – our urgent care visit pricing is listed right here on our website.
Our Newest Services
We found that many patients we saw in the urgent care required primary care followup but didn’t have a primary care physician. Patients told us the wait to establish care with some primary care clinics in town was 6-12 months! So we started our own. Now, if you need primary care followup and don’t have a primary care provider, we can set you up with one of our excellent & highly trained PCPs. We also added a Board Certified Sports Medicine physician to manage joint pain and orthopedic injuries that don’t require surgery. With our sports medicine clinic, we can treat many sprains, strains and fractures from start to finish – including casting!
What Makes Our Complete Urgent Care Experience Different
Because our urgent care clinic is directed by Board Certified Emergency Medicine Physicians, we can see a larger variety of illnesses & injuries than the typical walk in clinic. We have onsite X-Ray, lab testing, and can do stitches and other small medical procedures such as incision & drainage (I&D) and splinting. With ER doctors as our leaders, we prioritize quick, efficient visits and keeping unnecessary injuries and illnesses out of the ER. Many of our patients expressed a need to schedule appointments around their work and life schedule, so we added our simple online scheduling feature on the front page of our website. We also added a patient portal for patients to have access to their medical records right at their fingertips. Our clinic is now essentially paperless – we make less waste and save time by completing registration on tablets rather than clipboards.
What Makes Our Complete Primary Care Experience Different
At our Nashville primary care clinic, we believe that the primary care relationship is very personal and crucial to your long-term health – that’s why we schedule extra time for our primary care patient visits. We want to get to know you, your medical history and your unique medical needs. With this extra time and attention, we can make the most informed decisions and recommendations regarding your medical care.
A new patient primary care visit is comprised of the following:
- A detailed social, medical and family history
- History of current medical conditions & management
- Review of current medications
- Evaluation of new chronic conditions or concerns
- Focused physical exam
- Referrals for any annual screenings with specialists such as colonoscopy
- Preventative care & wellness education
- Preparation for primary care annual physical
A primary care annual physical is comprised of the following:
- Review of history and details from your new patient visit
- Fasting labs
- Depression/anxiety screening
- EKG (depending on age)
- Pap smear for females, if not completed by OBGYN
- Physical Exam
The primary care clinic should be your medical home. We recommend everyone have a primary care provider, even if they chose to go elsewhere for their primary care management. We believe that you are part of your healthcare team, and we take your concerns seriously.
Our walk in clinic doors are open everyday to our Nashville community who needs prompt care & easy online scheduling is available to establish care with one of our primary care providers. Complete Health Partners Urgent Care/Walk in Clinic is located at 6746 Charlotte Pike by the old log cabin and Costco, we offer urgent and walk in care 7 days a week from 9am-7pm. With our new online check in, you can select a time that works for you and get seen on your schedule. Our Nashville primary care & urgent care services serve patients from Belle Meade to Fairview and from downtown Nashville to Ashland City – we are Nashville’s partner in complete health.