57: Where to go for Care When you Need it
November 6, 2019
In Point of Health episode 57, "Where to go for Care When you Need it," Dr. Hope Fisher, Medical Director for BlueCross BlueShield discusses care options, including telemedicine, primary care, urgent care and ER, and in what situations we should turn to each.
What are the four main options for care? (1:30)
- Primary care physician (PCP) ; the physician you see continuously for routine check up
- Telemedicine; receiving care from your phone, tablet, or computer
- Urgent care; same day walk-in facilities that can treat minor emergencies on site, such as x-rays, lab studies, and minor procedures
- Emergency room; treat acute serious illness or injury that will lead to serious complications if not treated immediately
When is it best to go to the emergency room? (3:27)
You should go to the ER for the following acute, sudden-onset symptoms and conditions, or traumatic injuries that could be life threating. This could include:
- Severe physical trauma from a car accident, broken bones, etc.
- Severe headache, flu symptoms
- Symptoms of a heart attack or stroke
- Trouble breathing
- Internal bleeding
- Behavioral disturbances
When should a person call 911? (4:26)
You should call 911 when there is a life threatening emergency that requires immediate medical intervention to protect someone’s life. This can include uncontrollable bleeding, head or spinal injury, choking, breathing problems, stroke symptoms, chest pains, trouble breathing, coughing or vomiting blood, loss of consciousness, smoke inhalation, near drowning, severe burn injuries, seizures, or suicidal/homicidal thoughts. If you feel unsure if you should call 911, its best to call just in case and let the dispatcher assure you of what to do next.
In what situation should someone go to urgent care? (6:24)
Urgent care centers are for patients whose illnesses or injuries don’t present as life-threatening, but who can’t wait until a primary care physician can treat them.
In what instances should someone see their primary care doctor? (8:33)
Family doctors play a vital role in the health care system and that’s not just when you get sick. In addition to visiting your annual wellness visit, you should go to your primary care physician for the following kinds of symptoms and conditions:
- Cough, cold, flu
- Ear infections and sore throat
- Minor injuries like sprains, bumps and bruises
- Skin problems
- Urinary tract infections
You should always follow up with your primary care doctor if you visit the ER or Urgent Care.
When is it a good option to seek care through a virtual visit? (9:44)
It can be a good option to obtain diagnosis and treatment of routine illnesses from the convenience and comfort of your home. And some telemedicine care services are available 24/7, which eliminates the need to visit the ER or urgent care in non-emergency situations. This can be especially good when on vacation, your doctor is away, being stuck at work, or even if you want to just save time.
If an illness or accident arises in the middle of the night or on the weekend, what option do people have? (10:54)
Many doctors have an after-hours line, and in times where you feel there is a concern of a medical emergency you can contact them. When in doubt, go with your gut if you feel you may need to go to the ER. If your doctor is completely unavailable, you can always rely on telemedicine, urgent care, or even in the most severe situations, you can go to the ER.
What about if you're traveling? (12:13)
Our health plan has a variety of resources available to help our members choose the best care plan and connect them to doctors and hospitals in our network. Members can call the number of the back of their ID card for more information. If it is a dire situation that requires immediate attention, there is always the ER or urgent care that you can go to, and in less dire situations telemedicine is also an option.