Choosing between Immediate Care and Emergency Care

HAVING AN ABUNDANCE OF HEALTH CARE OPTIONS at hand is never a bad thing, but occasionally bountiful alternatives lead to uncertainty about where to seek treatment – especially if you can’t see your primary care physician.

Primary care providers are preferable for non life-threatening conditions, but if that option is not available, what is the appropriate alternative – an immediate care center or the emergency department (ED)?

Hancock Immediate Care center in Greenfield is walk- in only with no appointment needed and have extended hours. This plays a vital role when you’re sick and unable to see your primary care physician.

Deciding where to go depends, primarily, upon the seriousness of the condition. “Parents and adults are pretty good judges as to how sick they are,” said Don Thompson, Hancock Immediate Care manager. “Unless the condition is really serious, we advise them to start here. We can assess them, and we’re always willing to get them to the ED if that is necessary.”

The primary difference between an immediate care center and the emergency room lies at the level of care, not the quality. Both facilities provide excellent service, but the ED is equipped to handle more complicated medical situations.

Obvious serious medical emergencies such as chest pains radiating to the back, complex bone fractures, severe and constant abdominal pain and deep, long lacerations mandate a quick decision for the emergency room. However, general maladies like ear infections, simple fractures, rashes, sprains and strains can typically be treated at an immediate care center.

Moreover, if your primary care physician is a member of Hancock Physician Network, the center will have access to your personal medical history.

Though you should generally follow your instincts, never decide against a trip to the emergency room if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Significant bleeding
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Significant head trauma
  • Chest pains (Call 9-1-1)
  • Symptoms of stroke
  • Choking
  • Poison ingestion
  • Broken bones
  • Any sudden, unexpected and rapid onset of changes to your health.

The bottom line: Immediate Care can treat a variety of maladies and conditions, but if it’s serious, get to the ED or call 9-1-1.

When an Immediate Care visit is appropriate:

  • Gradual onset of symptoms or condition where you already know the diagnosis but unable to get same-day appointment with primary care physician
  • Conditions that are not life-threatening but still require immediate care
  • Minor cuts, scrapes or bruises
  • Minor swelling
  • Ear infections and minor aches pains
  • Cold symptoms like coughing, sore throat and fever
  • Flu symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting


Thank you for the post on choosing immediate care and emergency care. I think in many instances the worry of the injury doesn’t allow you to rationalize what kind of care you need. But if you can it is a good idea to attempt to determine your need. you can get quicker and appropriate help if you can determine the need for emergency care or immediate.

It sure is nice to know that conditions which are not life-threatening should go to urgent care clinics, as emergency rooms are reserved for those that can cause death if the patient is not treated immediately. I believe that this is a good system to separate those who need to get looked at by an expert as soon as possible so that they will be able to save lives while making sure that everyone else gets the quality of care that they need. Thanks for this information about what differentiates urgent care from going to the emergency room.

It’s good to know that you can go to Urgent Care for things like ear infections and minor swelling. Whenever I have problems, I have a tendency to put it off until I can get an appointment with my primary physician, typically a few days later. However, I would rather get those things taken care of immediately, and so maybe next time I get flu symptoms or those weird bruises that come from nowhere, I might consider a stop by Urgent Care.

It sure was nice to know that medical issues such as ear infections,
and simple fractures can be treated in a medical care center because they are not complicated medical situations. My daughter has been having a hard time sleeping because of her skin rashes. She doesn’t have a fever or anything that can worry me, so I will make sure to bring her to an urgent care center soon.

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