Your Health Matters: Emergency versus urgent care

Munson Healthcare provides both emergency and urgent care services but deciding between which one to use is a case by case basis.

Tristin Griffin is a high energy 11-year old who naturally loves being active.

" I like playing travel basketball. I like playing sports, football," says Tristin.

That's why when the young athlete started complaining of pain in his ear and throat one night it immediately caught his grandma's attention.

"When we knew his primary care physician was closed, this wasn't worthy of an ER schedule. We decided to take him into urgent care," says Tristin's grandma, Sue Kessel.

Kessel says a doctor checked over Tristin at an urgent care and diagnosed him with an ear infection and strep throat.

She says Tristin's problem wasn't severe enough for an ER visit but since it was during off hours, he couldn't see his primary doctor. That's why urgent care made the most sense.

"They quickly identified these issues, wrote out prescriptions," says Kessel.

Marty Lougen is the chief medical officer for Munson-Grayling Hospital and the medical director of the emergency room department. He knows firsthand what dictates a medical visit and where patients need to go.

"One concept to really keep in mind is choose the ER if you think your condition is life threatening or limb threatening. For urgent care and walk-in clinics those are better suited for coughs, colds, running nose, sore throat, earaches, minor strains or pains. If you want immediate medical care and the ER is the only place open," says Dr. Lougen.

Lougen says each hospital through Munson Healthcare has a team of specialists within their ER departments and depending on the severity of the patient's needs Munson Medical Center in Traverse City is the only hospital in northern Michigan with a level two trauma center.

"If you're in a serious car accident or serious head injury you'd need to be transferred to Munson right away," says Lougen.

On the flip side Dr. Lougen points out having a primary care provider is also beneficial.

"I think sometimes the urgent care and ER are convenient, but there's a lot of things the primary care providers do that are very important to our health care. When you do have that minor problem if it's appropriate to see your primary care provider, I really do encourage you to do that," says Lougen.

For someone like Tristin, who enjoys his active lifestyle and staying healthy urgent care was the best solution.

"When we finally got in the doctors helped a lot. They took care of my ear and it feels a lot better," says Tristin.

Dr. Lougen stresses patients would never be turned away from the ER no matter their medical concern, but he highly recommends starting with your primary care physician or urgent care for those non-life threatening concerns. If you'd like more information or to see the team approach with the various hospitals within Munson Healthcare click here.

For information about urgent care and walk-in clinic services through Munson Healthcare in your community click here.