With urgent care centers and freestanding emergency departments popping up all over Colorado, sometimes it can be difficult to know where to go and when to go.

Should you see your primary care provider, go to an urgent care, freestanding Emergency Department (ED) or a hospital-based ED?

Your primary care provider is always the best person to see when you have questions about your medications, chronic health problems, and health conditions that may not be as urgent.

Many urgent cares will have X-rays and lab tests and can do some simple screenings to determine if it's a broken bone, strep throat, or the flu.

Freestanding EDs are usually affiliated with a hospital, and can provide much of the same services as a regular ED.

In a freestanding ED, if you are having an emergency condition like a heart attack or a stroke, you will need to be transferred out of the ED to a hospital right away. The freestanding EDs can take of broken bones, but may not have a consulting doctor that can see you right away.

A hospital ED has all of the services you would need for any type of condition. The wait times can often be much longer for the ED too.

If you have health insurance, it’s really important to know what is covered and what is not. You also may have different levels of co-pays too for urgent care versus an ED.

Some tips when you are thinking about where to go for your health issue:

  • Think about how sick you are and how urgent the problem is.
  • Call or go online to find out what is covered and which facilities are considered in versus out of network.
  • Consider calling the nurse triage line (either through your insurance, health care provider, or your closest hospital).
  • If you are having a life-threatening emergency, you may need to call 9-1-1.

At the end of the day, go with your gut.

The Aurora Health Access has great resources in English and Spanish if you are trying to determine where to go for your health problem.

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