Thursday, February 19, 2015

Call Us First

With so many different options available when it comes to healthcare settings, knowing where to go when you need care can be confusing. This is especially true after normal business hours, on weekends or when you are experiencing symptoms that aren’t normal for your body.

Although not every ache or pain is an emergency, many people rely on the emergency room or an urgent care facility for care despite the fact that emergency room wait times are often long and visits can become expensive due to higher co-payments. It is time to break the habit of turning to the emergency room or urgent care for minor ailments. Instead, call your primary care physician first to see what the office recommends based on your symptoms. Calling your primary care physician before heading for the ER provides you with a number of benefits:

  • You receive care from a practice that knows you. Your primary care office has access to your medical records, meaning its staff knows which medications you take, what conditions you have and what care you have previously received. Staff can take a look at your medical history to help you make an informed decision about your current symptoms.
  • You get medical advice from a professional who knows your history. While you may not always talk to your specific primary care provider when you call his or her office, you will always talk to a physician, advanced practitioner or nurse. 
  • You avoid having repeat medical tests performed. Hospitals and urgent care centers can only treat you for the symptoms you have at the moment using the information they have. If you don’t have your medical records with you, they may have to rerun tests you’ve already had.
  • You avoid unnecessary extra expenses. While not every appointment is completely covered by your health insurance, visiting your primary care physician instead of going to the nearest emergency room could save you a lot of money. Emergency care is often billed at two to three times the rate of a primary care office.

GBMC understands that people are not always able to visit a doctor’s office during the normal business day, and that sometimes symptoms occur after hours or on weekends. In order to help prevent unnecessary emergency room visits, GBMC primary care offices have extended their daily hours and expanded into weekend hours, as well. Family Care Associates and the GBMC at Hunt Valley practice are even open on Sundays.

There are some conditions that require emergency treatment, however, and for those times, please do not waste precious seconds calling your primary care physician for assistance. Conditions that fall into the category of calling 911 or going to the emergency room include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Severe chest pain
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Not acting like oneself
  • Uncontrollable bleeding
  • Serious injury

Know before you go. To find a GBMC physician, visit

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