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Primary Care, Urgent Care or Emergency Room? How to Make the Call

Primary Care, Urgent Care or Emergency Room? How to Make the Call

With today’s many options for healthcare, it’s not always easy to determine the best course of action when you or a loved one is sick or hurt. When should you make an appointment with your doctor? How “urgent” is urgent care? Is it time to go to the emergency room?

Your primary care provider (PCP) should be your first choice for care for acute and chronic illnesses because he or she is familiar with your medical history. Many Ochsner primary care offices and health centers offer same-day appointments during regular office hours. Some even offer extended hours to accommodate patients’ busy schedules.  

Outside of regular office hours or extended hours, the same acute, non-life threatening illnesses or injuries that you may normally go to your PCP for can be treated at an urgent care facility. Hours of operation vary, but no appointment is necessary and the wait is typically less than an hour.  

A visit to the emergency room is warranted only for potentially life-threatening illnesses and injuries. Wait times for non-life threatening conditions could exceed an hour or more in the emergency room.     

Below is a list of just a few of the illnesses and injuries treated by a primary care provider,  urgent care and the emergency room.

Visit your PCP for:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis/Joint Pain
  • Anxiety/Depression
  • Fatigue/Unexplained Weight Loss or Gain
  • Back Pain
  • Acid Reflux
  • Management of All Chronic Diseases
  • Difficulty Sleeping
  • Constipation
  • Disease Screening (Cholesterol, Diabetes, etc.)
  • Physicals or Yearly Check-ups
  • Medication Refills
  • All Other Injuries and Illnesses Listed Under Urgent Care Below

Visit your PCP or urgent care for:

  • Cold/Cough/Flu/Sinus/Fever
  • Sore Throat/Strep Throat
  • Ear Pain or Infection
  • Eye Irritation or Pink Eye
  • Urinary Tract Infection
  • Minor Lacerations
  • Abscess/Insect and Animal Bites
  • Rashes and Minor Burns
  • Sprains, Strains and Possible Closed Fractures (No Open Wound)
  • Minor Head Injury
  • Nausea, Vomiting and Diarrhea
  • Mild Abdominal Pain
  • Mild Asthma Attack
  • Migraine or Mild Headache
  • Allergic Reactions or Allergies

Go to the emergency room for the following:

  • Chest Pain
  • Shortness of Breath or a Severe Asthma Attack
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Loss of Consciousness or Fainting
  • Uncontrollable Bleeding
  • Broken Bone (with Deformity or Open Wound)
  • Seizures
  • Severe Abdominal Pain
  • Severe Headache
  • Weakness, Slurred Speech or Confusion
  • Major Head Injuries
  • Severe Burns
  • Severe Pain
  • Suicidal or Homicidal Thoughts
  • Loss of Eyesight

Find out more about same-day appointments with Ochsner PCPs or hours and locations for urgent care clinics and emergency facilities at www.ochsner.org/locations.

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