When To Visit Urgent Care

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When To Visit Urgent Care

Published in Positively Superior magazine, June/July issue

When to Visit Urgent Care

By Dr. Matt Hansmeier

“Should I go to my primary care clinic, urgent care or the emergency department?” It’s a common dilemma when any health-related incident occurs. As an urgent care physician at St. Luke’s, I probably see one patient a day who should be in the emergency department (ED), and the same is likely true for emergency doctors who may see patients that are better suited for an urgent care visit. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what constitutes an emergency or urgent care situation. Hopefully I can help clear some of that up.

1. Acute, non-life threatening injuries. Urgent care is primarily for non-life threatening conditions that include:

  • Illnesses
  • Minor injuries
  • Lacerations or scrapes

If it’s unclear, another way to think about whether something is life-threatening is to ask, “How long can I wait?” If your health concern should be attended to on the same day or in a couple days, urgent care is the place to go. If the issue can wait beyond that, you might want to schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor. If something happens that requires immediate and possibly complex medical care, it’s best to go to the ED. Some of the serious scenarios that are better suited for the ED include:

  • Chest pain
  • Head or neck injuries
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Serious abdominal pain
  • Confusion
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Cancer-related issues
  • Fever in infants who are under three months

At urgent care, we have x-ray and lab capabilities on-site, which means we can get answers for ailments that aren’t life-threatening right away. But more complex or multiple injuries are better treated at the ED, with the help of imaging, rapid lab studies and intravenous (IV) therapy.

2. Seasonal ailments. Urgent care is a great place to treat seasonal conditions. These conditions include:

  • Rashes
  • Tick bites
  • Allergies or asthma flares
  • Cuts and scrapes

What to Expect at Urgent Care

When you visit urgent care, remember to bring your insurance card, identification and list of medications. The great thing about St. Luke’s Urgent Care is that if you’re already a St. Luke’s patient, you’re in the system. Your urgent care doctor can pull up your medical history, family history and medications in a matter of clicks. Your doctor can also contact your primary care provider on the spot, if clarification is needed.

After registration, you’ll wait for a room. Sometimes, you’ll get in quickly, but you may have to wait if the clinic is busy. One way to cut down on wait time is to book an urgent care appointment online. Simply find your preferred or nearest urgent care location on slhduluth.com/UrgentCare and schedule a time.

After you’re brought to a room, your doctor will come in and discuss what’s going on before determining a plan for your care. Your electronic medical records and any notes from the appointment are then sent to your primary care doctor. When urgent care patients need further attention, a St. Luke’s care coordinator may step in to help communicate and maintain consistency with specialists, primary care physicians, hospitals or nursing homes.

Once you’re a St. Luke’s patient, you’ll have access to your medical records online. Using the St. Luke’s Patient Portal, patients can view lab results, email their primary care providers or see basic radiology results.

Of course, St. Luke’s will see patients at its urgent care locations no matter what health system you’re associated with, and we’ll send you back to your clinic with a recap of your care and treatment.

Dr. Matt Hansmeier is a St. Luke’s urgent care physician and sees patients at St. Luke’s urgent care clinics throughout the Twin Ports.

BELOW: Dr. Matt Hansmeier, St. Luke's urgent care physician

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