Deciding Between Visiting Primary Care, Urgent Care, or the Emergency Room

December 23, 2021

Beverly and Gloucester, MA – You may have heard that hospitals are busier than ever. You’ve just slipped in your driveway and think you may have sprained or broken your ankle. You need to see a doctor. But where? Should you go to the nearest emergency room, or to urgent care? Should you call your primary care physician?

“We want our patients to know we are here to care for them, and our community, and we encourage everyone to stay connected with their care team and address any health concerns,” said Tom Sands, president of Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals. “With a better understanding to the options available for different types of care, patients can visit the best place to take care of their specific needs.”

When to Contact Your Primary Care Physician

Primary care physicians know their patients and their patients’ medical history best. They can diagnose and treat non-urgent conditions such as minor infections, headaches, muscle pains, minor scrapes and bruises. For some conditions, telehealth may also be an option, allowing the patient to have an appointment with their provider in the comfort of their own home.

“Your primary care doctor is generally the best place to start for illnesses and non-life threatening conditions,” said Hugh Taylor, MD, president of the Medical Staff at Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals. “The established relationship with your primary care doctor is beneficial for managing any medical concerns as well as chronic health conditions because they know your medical history best, and can help you make informed choices about advanced care.”

Examples of care available through primary care:

  • Cold, flu and sore throat
  • Ear, sinus or urinary tract infection
  • Headaches and muscle pains
  • Stomach pains, nausea, diarrhea, or constipation
  • Minor scrapes or bruises
  • Managing chronic diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure

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

When to Go to the Urgent Care Center

Non-emergent injuries and illnesses are usually best handled by your primary care doctor but if an appointment is not available or you don’t have a primary care doctor, urgent care centers are also a good option. Urgent care centers can perform a multitude of tests  with some locations offering X-rays and lab services, and some centers offering IV fluids for dehydration or IV antibiotics for an infection. Additionally, visiting an urgent care center can save you time and money compared to an emergency department.

Examples of care available through urgent care:

  • Sprains
  • Minor animal bites or stings
  • Minor cuts or burns
  • Dehydration
  • Pink eye
  • Rashes or other skin issues
  • Primary care concerns (if unable to see primary care provider)

Beth Israel Lahey Health (BILH) operates Lahey Health Urgent Care, Danvers and Gloucester.

Lahey Health Urgent Care, Danvers is located within the Lahey Outpatient Center at 480 Maple Street in Danvers. They offer lab testing, imaging services, and treat adults and children over the age of three. Lahey Health Urgent Care, Danvers, is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Walk-ins are welcome and free parking is available. Call 978-304-8380 for more information.

Lahey Health Urgent Care, Gloucester is located at 305 Gloucester Crossing Road in Gloucester. They offer on-site X-ray and laboratory services, and treat adults and children over the age of three months. Lahey Health Urgent Care, Gloucester, is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Walk-ins are welcome and free parking is available. Call 978-381-7700 for more information.

For more information and a full list of Beth Israel Lahey Health-affiliated urgent care centers, please visit the BILH Urgent Care website and choose a location that is convenient for you.

When to Go to the Emergency Department at the Hospital

For managing chronic illnesses or cold and flu symptoms, start with a call to your primary care physician’s office. For that sprained or broken ankle, rash, and other mild-to-moderate symptoms, going to urgent care can save you time and money. Patients needing more complex emergency care should call 911 or seek care at the closest emergency department.

Examples of care available through the emergency department:

  • Chest pain or difficulty breathing
  • Serious burns, cuts, or lacerations
  • Broken bones or dislocated joints
  • Fainting, changes in mental state, or slurred speech
  • Head or eye injuries
  • Weakness and/or numbness in one side
  • You should also visit the emergency department if another provider instructs you to do so, or if it’s your only option at the current time and location.

“Patients might be hesitant to call their primary care providers or visit an urgent care center but often those are both good places to start for non-life threatening symptoms,” said, Mark Gendreau, MD, chief medical officer at Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals. “Hospitals are experiencing high volumes in the emergency departments and patients may experience potentially long wait times, so utilizing primary care and urgent care when appropriate can be a good option. Patients who are experiencing potential life-threatening symptoms should go to the emergency room or call 911.” 

About Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals

Beverly Hospital is a full-service 223-bed community hospital founded in 1888 that serves more than 13 communities across Massachusetts’ North Shore and Cape Ann. With a medical staff of more than 500 physicians, the hospital provides quality, patient-centered care in maternity, pediatrics, surgical, orthopedics and cardiology, as well as other specialties.

Addison Gilbert Hospital is a 52-bed community hospital located in Gloucester, MA. Since its founding in 1889, Cape Ann residents have turned to the hospital when they needed care. Specialties include radiology, cancer care, pain management, cardiology, chronic disease management, inpatient geriatric services and emergency medicine.

Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals are a part of Beth Israel Lahey Health, a health care system that brings together academic medical centers and teaching hospitals, community and specialty hospitals, more than 4,700 physicians and 39,000 employees in a shared mission to expand access to great care and advance the science and practice of medicine through groundbreaking research and education.

Media Relations Manager

Sonya Vartabedian

Please note: The contact information above is for journalists and news media only. For patient care and all other inquiries, please contact your doctor or Beverly or Addison Gilbert Hospitals directly.