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Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between primary care, immediate/urgent care and emergency care?

Being treated at the right time is just as important as getting the right treatment for your medical condition. It’s also important to go to the right place. Knowing the difference between primary care, immediate/urgent care and emergency care will help you know where to go when the unexpected happens.

What is immediate care or urgent care?

If it’s after-hours and your primary care provider isn’t available but you need care right away, immediate care or urgent care can help you with non-life threatening medical issues that could become worse if not treated immediately. The key word here is non-life threatening.

Immediate care/urgent care clinics are open extended hours during the weekdays and weekends. To receive care, you can just walk in without an appointment on a first-come, first-served basis.

What is primary care?

Primary care is usually your first stop in getting health care for you and your family. Your primary care provider can help treat common illnesses and minor injuries. If specialty care is needed, your primary care provider can coordinate care and make necessary referrals for your specific medical condition. Your primary care provider can also help you manage your overall health by knowing you and your medical history.

Primary care clinics are usually open only during the weekdays and limited hours on weekends. Appointments are required to receive care.

When should you go to a primary care clinic?

Primary care clinics can take care of:
  • Common illnesses (flu, colds, fever, sore throats, headaches, skin irritations)
  • Minor injuries like minor cuts/burns, sprains, minor bone fractures
  • Physical exams, vaccinations and health screenings

When should you go to an immediate care or urgent care clinic?

Immediate care/urgent care clinics can take care of:
  • Common illnesses (flu, colds, fever, sore throats, headaches, skin irritations)
  • Minor injuries like minor cuts/burns, sprains, minor broken bones

Another option: Providence Express Care Virtual

What if you need non-life threatening care, but you can’t get in immediately to see your primary care provider and you can’t get to an urgent clinic?

Express Care Virtual could be the answer.Express Care Virtual allows you to have a live, on-demand video visit with one of our doctors or nurse practitioners from your computer, smartphone or tablet. Virtual visits are an easy, convenient way to get a diagnosis and treatment recommendation, including a prescription, if needed. No appointment is needed and wait times average less than five minutes.

This service is ideal for many common health conditions, including:
  • Sinus, ear or eye infections
  • Cough, cold and flu
  • Rash and joint issues
  • Prescription refills

Learn more about Express Care Virtual, including our providers and billing.

What is emergency care?

Emergency care is for serious medical conditions that threaten a person’s life or limb. For these medical conditions, every second counts.

Emergency rooms (ERs) are usually located at hospitals and are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Patients with the most serious medical conditions get treated first while those with less serious conditions might have to wait long hours for their turn. It’s also much more expensive to get care at an ER compared to an immediate care/urgent care clinic.

When should you go to an emergency room?

Go to an ER if you have:
  • Severe chest pain/heart palpitations
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Ingestion of objects or poisons
  • Major/significant trauma or injury
  • Seizures
  • Severe burns
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Uncontrollable bleeding/vomiting blood
  • Animal bites
  • Fainting/unconsciousness