Knowing when to use emergency, urgent and primary care.


Consider the following situations. You fell during your morning run and you think you sprained your ankle. It’s late at night and you’re having severe chest pains. You’re starting to wonder if you weight issues are leading to other health problems. Do you know when to head to a hospital emergency room, when to visit an urgent care clinic or when to make an appointment to see your primary care physician?

If it’s not always clear, you’re not alone. Here are some guidelines.

Emergency room

You should call 911 or go right to the emergency room if:

  • Your illness is affecting your entire body
  • You have severe pain or a fever that won’t break
  • You’re unable to move an arm or leg or breathe normally
  • You’ve passed out or experiencing any signs of a possible stroke or heart attack

Urgent care

If your condition isn’t life threatening, an urgent care center is general a better use of your time. With resources to treat injuries, fevers, infections and other minor ailments, urgent care clinics often have far shorter wait times and cost less than a hospital emergency room visit.

Primary care

If you’re experiencing mild symptoms, such as aches and pains or a lingering cough, making an appointment with your primary physician might make the most sense – and be the most cost-effective option. 

At Evernorth Care Group, we offer primary and urgent care services.

  • Our primary care doctors and health clinicians are available to help you maintain better health and a healthier lifestyle. You can schedule an appointment today online or by calling 800.233.3264.
  • We have four urgent care centers across the valley, with doctors and clinicians available to treat your health needs. Find a location near you here.

University of Chicago. What’s the difference between the ER and urgent care? D. Bickley, A. Isabel. January 17, 2023.