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