Provider meeting with pediatric patient and mother

How To Find the Right Care at the Right Place

March 06, 2023
You may have heard that primary care teams are busier than ever. Did you know that the quickest way to be seen is by getting the right care at the right place? Here’s how to evaluate whether that’s the emergency department, urgent care or primary care.

When To Contact Your Primary Care Provider

Your primary care provider knows you and your medical history best, so they should be your first option for non-emergency situations. In some cases, a telehealth appointment may also be a good option for you. Your provider can support you to be healthier by providing preventative care, helping you manage chronic conditions and treating acute non-life-threatening issues such as:

  • Aches, pains and headaches
  • Rashes
  • Infections
  • Common colds

If you have urgent health-related questions outside of regular business hours, you may call your primary care practice to be connected to the triage line and talk to an on-call nurse for guidance. Please note, you should only use this after hours triage line for acute matters that are time-sensitive. You can help care teams by requesting your routine results, refills and referrals during regular business hours. 

To find a Beth Israel Lahey Health primary care provider near you, please visit the BILH Find a Doctor page.

When To Go to Urgent Care

Your primary care provider can usually address your non-emergent injuries and illnesses, but if you can't get an appointment or don’t have a primary care provider, going to an urgent care center is a good alternative. You can expect to get timely, convenient care often at a lower cost than a trip to the emergency department. Urgent care centers can generally diagnose and treat severe yet non-life-threatening issues such as:

  • Skin punctures, burns and infections
  • Dehydration, dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Respiratory illnesses like pneumonia or asthma flares

If needed, some urgent care centers can evaluate you for chest pain and shortness of breath to determine if you need to be transferred to a nearby emergency department.

To find an urgent care center near you, please visit the BILH Urgent Care page.

When To Go to the Emergency Department

If you or a loved one need emergency medical attention or are experiencing a life-threatening condition, call an ambulance or go to your nearest emergency department.

Consider visiting the emergency department for the following concerns:

  • Chest pain or shortness of breath
  • Severe burns or bleeding
  • Broken bones or severe trauma to any parts of your body
  • Stroke-like symptoms (slurred speech, one-sided face/body weakness)

At an emergency department, you can also expect to get treatment for most acute conditions that are treated in your primary care office or at urgent care centers. However, please be aware that you may potentially experience a longer wait time. You should consider visiting the emergency department if another provider instructs you to do so, or if it’s your only option at the current time and location.

To find an emergency department near you, visit the BILH Emergency Care page.

To learn more about finding the right care at the right place, visit BILH Care Options.