Women

The Best Medicine - What’s Best For Your Situation

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Feeling sick? Used to be that you’d dial your doctor (or go straight to the ER). Now, there are more options. Scan this chart to decide what’s best for your situation.

There are more than 1,400 retail clinics and over 8,700 urgent-care centers in the U.S.

Doctor’s office

Go here if...

You have a non-urgent symptom like a sore throat or an elbow sprain during office hours. Your primary care doctor (usually a family physician or internist) is also best for checkups, shots and ongoing issues like diabetes.

Find it fast

Don’t have a doctor? Check with your insurance for practitioners who are covered under your plan. You can also go to zocdoc.com and search for local doctors who take your insurance; they’ll even book appointments.

Doctor’s office

Doctor’s office

Who you’ll see

Your own doctor will usually treat you at each visit, but certain practices have a team of physicians who care for one another’s patients. And some offices have physician’s assistants, medical professionals who work in tandem with an MD.

Good to know

Primary care doctors have a relationship with you and keep records of all your meds and what has worked (or not) in the past. This means there is less of a chance you’ll be given a drug that will interact with meds you’re on.

Cut your Wait time

Call ahead of your appointment to see if the office is on schedule. If you can, avoid Mondays, which are busy due to people who’ve fallen ill over the weekend. Fridays are also busy with people who need Rx’s before the weekend.

Retail clinic

Go here if...

You have a minor problem like a sore throat, a stomachache or a sinus infection – or you need an immunization – and you can’t get in to see your doctor. Retail clinics are also helpful if you’re traveling and you get sick.

Find it fast

Retail clinics are normally found in chain pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS, supermarkets like ShopRite and big-box stores such as Walmart and Target. You can visit ccaclinics.org to find one in your area.

Retail clinic at Walmart

Retail clinic at Walmart

Who you’ll see

A nurse practitioner – they make up 95% of the clinics’ workforce (the other 5% is physician’s assistants and doctors). They can do most of what doctors do, including diagnosing and treating conditions, and, in most cases, writing Rx’s.

Good to know

This is the least costly option if you’re uninsured or your plan only covers emergencies. A visit is about $75 (shots and lab tests are separate). Many take insurance (check with yours) and Medicare. Some also take Medicaid.

Cut your Wait time

Time your visit for the afternoon, since clinics are often busiest in the a.m., at lunch and early evening, and operate on a first come, first-served basis. Most keep the hours of the store they’re associated with, often 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Urgent-care center

Go here if...

You have an injury like a sprained ankle or a burn that can’t wait for a doctor’s visit, but doesn’t warrant a trip to the ER because it’s not life- or limb- threatening. These centers have X-rays and can perform minor procedures (stitches).

Find it fast

Locate the nearest Urgent Care Association of America center by entering your zip code at ucaoa.org/ucaoa_orgs.php. Or, try findurgentcare.com, where you can search by criteria (for instance, whether a pediatrician is on staff).

You have an injury like a sprained ankle or a burn that can’t wait for a doctor’s visit, but doesn’t warrant a trip to the ER because it’s not life- or limb- threatening

You have an injury like a sprained ankle or a burn that can’t wait for a doctor’s visit, but doesn’t warrant a trip to the ER because it’s not life- or limb- threatening

Who you’ll see

Most likely a doctor, although they also employ nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants

Good to know

Most centers accept Medicare and some take Medicaid. If you’re insured, the out-of-pocket cost is lower than the ER. Without insurance, an average visit is about $185. Most are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Cut your Wait time

Call ahead urgent-care centers see the most critical patients first, so there may be a wait. Many offer a phone-ahead service: you’re given a wait time and put on a list. When you arrive, you’ll likely be seen quicker than if you’d simply walked in.

Hospital emergency room

Go here if...

You have a life-threatening emergency, a serious change in your medical condition, or symptoms like difficulty breathing, chest tightness, weakness on one side, serious abdominal pain or a sudden change in balance.

Find it fast

Don’t waste time in an emergency. Dial 911. When the ambulance arrives, you may be able to request a certain hospital, depending on the severity of your condition.

Don’t waste time in an emergency. Dial 911. When the ambulance arrives, you may be able to request a certain hospital, depending on the severity of your condition

Don’t waste time in an emergency. Dial 911. When the ambulance arrives, you may be able to request a certain hospital, depending on the severity of your condition

Who you’ll see

A doctor who specializes in emergency medicine. Hospital ERs are staffed with doctors and nurses who are trained to handle everything from heart attacks to car crashes and have equipment that can respond to nearly every need.

Good to know

ERs are open 24 hours, 7 days a week and are required to help all patients – even those without insurance or the ability to pay. Many work on a sliding scale if you can’t afford to pay your bill, so inquire about financial aid.

Cut your Wait time

Ask about Fast Track if you have a serious problem, you’ll be seen right away. If it’s less urgent, you may have to wait. Some ERs have fast track systems so that less serious patients can be seen sooner by a doctor or a physician’s assistant.

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