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A Helpful Guide on Identifying the Appropriate Level of Care

Published June 30, 2014

Nobody wishes for a medical emergency but in the case you encounter one, it’s important to know where to receive your care. The Washington State Hospital Association explains the difference between Doctor’s Office Visits, Walk-In Clinics and Hospital Emergency Rooms. For common illnesses, minor injuries or regular check-ups, it's best to get care by making a visit to your doctor’s office because your provider knows you and your medical history the best. If your doctor is not available, walk-in clinics serve common illnesses and minor injuries that are not life-threatening. A hospital emergency department is equipped and staffed to handle the most critically ill and injured individuals.

However, it’s not just the level of care that differs. “Using the Emergency Department for minor injuries or illnesses is much more expensive than seeing one’s primary care provider or going to a walk-in clinic,” said Kim Williams, chief operating officer. “As we all envision lower cost healthcare for our community and our nation, we all need to make good choices—the best choice for an individual’s ongoing health and well being is to see one’s regular provider.”

Doctor’s Office Visits

The best place to get care is from a doctor who knows you and your medical history the best.

  • Common illness such as colds, flu, rashes, migraines and sore throats
  • Minor injuries such as sprains, back pain, minor cuts and burns, minor broken bones and minor eye injuries
  • Regular check-ups including physicals, prescription refills, vaccinations and screenings

Walk-In Clinics

When your doctor is not available, walk-in clinics can be utilized for non-life threatening injuries or medical problems that require attention.

  • Common illness such as colds, flu, rashes, migraines and sore throats
  • Minor injuries such as sprains, back pain, minor cuts and burns, minor broken bones and minor eye injuries

Hospital Emergency Rooms

The Emergency Department is equipped and staffed to handle the most critically ill and injured individuals. If you experience any of the following, you are advised to call 911 or get to your nearest hospital emergency room.

  • Chest pain
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Severe burns
  • Deep cuts or bleeding that won’t stop
  • Numbness in face, arm or leg
  • High fevers
  • Any other symptom you consider life threatening

For more information about where to get the appropriate level of care as needed, please use this brochure.

Source: The Washington Hospital Association