Should I Visit Urgent Care or Primary Care?

It’s always a good idea to have your health care team in place before you get sick. Ideally, that team should include a primary care physician and an urgent care location. There’s some service overlap between the two, so it’s helpful to know which to visit and when.

What Does a Primary Care Physician Do?

Your primary care physician is the doctor who knows your health history inside and out. They’re the doctors you see for a thorough annual checkup each year. They help you manage chronic health care issues and stay healthy.

That same doctor also treats you when you’re sick. They can diagnose and treat anything from upper respiratory infections to aches and pains. Your primary care doctor may also refer you to a specialist if you need additional, specialized care for an illness.

The benefit of seeing your primary care physician for everything is continuity of care. A primary care doctor coordinates and tracks all your care. You have a long-term relationship, and you work as a team to keep you healthy.

A primary care physician is your home base for all your health care needs. When you’re sick, they take into consideration any health conditions or medicines that might need special attention. They’re also in close contact with other members of your health care team, so nothing slips through the cracks.

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How Is Urgent Care Different from Primary Care?

UPMC Urgent Care offers convenient walk-in locations throughout our communities. They’re a great option for minor illnesses and injuries that require prompt care but occur when your regular doctor’s office is closed.

Keep in mind Urgent Care locations are not equipped to handle life-threatening conditions. Instead, call 911 or go to the Emergency Department for those.

At UPMC Urgent Care, experienced providers offer immediate care for the following conditions:

  • Asthma and allergies.
  • Colds and flu.
  • Coughs, sore throats, earaches, and sinus infections.
  • Cuts and scrapes.
  • Infections, including pink eye and urinary tract infections.
  • Sprains, strains, minor broken bones, and simple fractures.
  • Skin conditions, from rashes to poison ivy.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea.

Unlike your primary care doctor’s office, you don’t need an appointment for UPMC Urgent Care. You can go whenever it’s convenient. The details of your visit are electronically accessible to your providers throughout UPMC.  Their clinicians can also provide basic physicals for work, sports, or camp.

Choosing Between Primary Care and Urgent Care

You should see your primary care doctor for your annual checkup and any important, non-urgent, concerns.

For routine ongoing care for a chronic health condition like diabetes, you may continue seeing your primary care doctor.

If you have an urgent health care need while your regular primary care doctor’s office is open, call them first. Sometimes, same-day appointments are available. In some cases, they can schedule a video appointment with you.

To find a primary care location near you, visit our website.

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.