Urgent vs. Emergency Care

Deborah Blazey-Martin, MD is an internal medicine physician at Tufts Medical Center.Many people have heard the term “Urgent Care” before, but don’t actually know what it means. To help us understand when urgent care is needed, Dr. Deb Blazey-Martin, Chief of Internal Medicine and Primary Care at Tufts Medical Center answered a few of our questions.

Q: What is the difference between Emergency Care and Urgent Care?

A: Emergency care is when something is life threatening. So any time there is something life threatening going on, you are not going to be calling an office and waiting for someone to schedule you an appointment. Whether you have chest pain, you can’t breathe, you have a traumatic injury and need to know if something is broken something, or you might need surgical intervention….. It’s usually something that can wait 24 to 48 hours, but really shouldn’t wait much longer than that.

Q: Do PCPs provide Urgent Care? When choosing a PCP, should you consider this?

A: Urgent care is usually an extension of your primary care physician. So if you have a good doctor, who knows you well – who has good records of what your medications are, what your allergies are, what your medical problems are, anything that has happened before… you can get much better care.

Q: When should a patient call their PCP? 911?

A: People should call their doctors when they’re uncomfortable with something in particular, if they’re feeling not like themselves. If they want to be seen, they should call… and as a physician, I want my patients to call. I don’t want to find something out when it is too late. Some things may be manageable over the phone, but some of those things may need an appointment. Honestly, if there is something and you are not sure if it is an emergency, having a medical professional to talk to… is why you have a primary care provider, that’s why you have somebody who knows you over time.

Q: Is Urgent Care available through Tufts MC Primary Care? If yes, when can patients come in for Urgent Care needs? And how long is the wait time to be seen?

A: We have urgent care availability every day. We have business hours, so 8 in the morning – we start a little earlier than a lot of practices – until about 5, Monday through Friday. But we can accommodate people, often same day, usually within 24 hours…. One of the nice things about the practice at Tufts Medical Center is that we have multiple doctors who are doing just urgent care and have regular schedules... so I can do the follow up… and that ability and limited continuity is nice. 

Source:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcpYDlP18rg