LEXINGTON, SC (WIS) - When you're not feeling well - whether it be the sniffles of a flu bug to a heart attack - it's important you go to the right type of medical facility when you need care quickly.
The best way to know where to go is to know the difference between what is urgent and what is an emergency. Urgent Care vs. the ER vs. calling 911.
Dr. Don Moore of Lexington Medical Center Irmo Urgent Care has been practicing medicine 38 years. He says it's a good feeling to think that you're in a helping profession. Part of helping a patient is educating him or her on knowing where to go.
"The urgent care setting is really for a lot of things that can be seen here. I mean abdominal pains, non-cardiac chest pain, routine lacerations, small fractures, things like that. And we can work up significant abdominal pains for appendicitis or whatever other thing, [like] gallbladder disease," Dr. Moore said.
So if you have a minor illness, an infection like sinusitis or strep throat, the flu, a broken ankle, an Urgent Care is very capable of taking care of that.
But Dr. Moore warns against what he sometimes sees - especially in outlying areas - people showing up at an Urgent Care with a loved one in cardiac arrest.
"Urgent means something that is urgent that needs to get the attention that day. Emergent truly means something that is limb- or life-threatening," says Dr. Moore.
Like for a heart attack.
Urgent care can stabilize critical conditions but then you lose precious time having to be transferred to the emergency room. So Dr. Moore says if you truly think you have a life-threatening issue, call 911. "For significant issues that are limb-threatening or life-threatening, a person should call 9-1-1 and go to the ER. For example for a suspected stroke or a suspected heart attack because in those cases, time is of the essence."
Dr. Moore says the advancement of 911 technology enables EMS workers to get to you faster and begin treatment immediately.
"When they get to the house, treatment can begin at the house or the scene if it's a workplace or whatever else. For instance, if somebody has an irregular heart rhythm, it can start being treated," he said." They can actually do an EKG on the scene and if it shows something like a heart attack, they can transmit it to the hospital. And if it is a true heart attack, they can bypass the ER and go straight to the cardiac cath lab."
Urgent Care facilities take the brunt off ER's which are trying to focus on true emergencies.
In the Lexington system, the emergency department sees over 200,000 people a year. The six urgent cares associated with the hospital see about 130,000 combined, so that takes a lot of pressure off the ER.
Whether you go to the ER or an Urgent Care, remember it is episodic care. No one has a scheduled appointment so you likely will have a wait unless it's super critical.
"We have triage, very highly trained nurses who have to decide who to see first. And, of course, the sickest, the most at risk patients will be seen first. And so, it is very frustrating when you have your sinuses clogged up and your head hurts and you are sitting there for a while. But that purely is predicated on how many people come in," Moore said.
When going to an urgent care or an ER be SURE to take with you your medications or at a list of the meds you take including the names and dosages. That will really help the doctor know better how to treat you.