Tonawanda News — “Every physician has someone on call, either himself or a covering physician,” he said. “Have your primary care physician work with you and triage your needs ... a doctor knowing your past history is good.”
The primary care doctor can then refer you to the right urgent care center for a patient’s needs, or suggest coming in to the office instead.
Ultimately, urgent care centers work best as an extension of a primary care doctor during times when he or she is not available, or to provide services not given in their office. Even more importantly, a doctor can better tell their patients when urgent care isn’t enough and it’s time to head to the emergency room.
Not the same as an emergency room
Dr. Raquel Martin, the medical director at Kenmore Mercy Hospital’s emergency department, has worked in some capacity at a variety of urgent care centers for about 20 years. She has about the same number of years of experience working as the director of emergency departments, most recently at Kenmore Mercy and previously at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital.
When she walks in to one of her urgent care shifts, her co-workers know they’ll have more emergency room transfers than most nights.
“An urgent care center is not an emergency department,” she said, adding that she’s surprised how many time she’s seen patients at an urgent care exhibiting symptoms of life-threatening problems like heart attacks and strokes.
People often don’t triage themselves properly, which is where calling a primary care physician is helpful, she said.
While there are no hard-and-fast rules as to what constitutes an emergency room visit versus an urgent care visit, Martin has some guidelines to use.
“If you don’t have a primary care physician (to help triage), I would say go to emergency room if you have belly pain, head pain or injury, think you’re having a stroke, you have deep, long lacerations or abscesses, if there’s any pediatric shortness of breath, or chest pain,” she said.