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When Should I go to Urgent Care or a Walk-In Clinic?

Updated: May 26, 2023

You cut your finger slicing tomatoes. You’ve got a cough with the sniffles. At these points, you are probably asking yourself when to drop by an Urgent Care facility or call up your Primary Care Physician (PCP.) And in some cases, you should skip both and head straight to your local hospital’s emergency room.

In this blog, our expert physicians will walk you through what urgent care offers, when to schedule a doctor’s appointment, and the scenarios where an emergency visit is necessary.

What is an Urgent Care Facility?

Urgent Care facilities are a type of healthcare entity that stands in the gap between your primary care physician and the Emergency Room. The examples above (cutting your finger, coughing with the sniffles) could be taken care of just fine in an urgent care facility.

It is not always easy to schedule a doctor’s appointment, especially when there is a quick onset of symptoms or injury. From minor burns to flu symptoms, urgent care can be an affordable and convenient alternative to a traditional doctor’s visit.

What are the Benefits of Urgent Care?

Of the many good things that an urgent care facility can do for you, there are a few shortcomings you should be aware of as well. So, we have compiled a list of pros and cons so that you can make the right choice when the time comes.


  • No appointment is needed - just breeze right in.

  • Urgent care facilities are a cheaper way to see a doctor and generally much less an emergency room visit. (And yes, urgent care centers take insurance!)

  • They are open longer hours, usually after five and some hours over the weekend.

  • Urgent Care facilities are perfect for when your PCP can’t see you, but it’s not serious enough to warrant a visit to the ER.

  • Urgent Care facilities are often happy and willing to send over their records of your visit to your PCP - just ask them if they don’t ask you first.


  • They don’t have your complete medical history, so they might be doing some educated guessing when it comes to treating some patients’ conditions.

  • If you’re using an urgent care facility instead of having a PCP, you might not be able to see the same doctor twice.

  • Urgent Care facilities can perform x-rays but do not often have more sophisticated equipment, such as MRI machines or CAT scans. However, they can refer you to another facility.

Should I go to urgent care or the emergency room?

There are times when it just makes sense to use an Urgent Care facility. But how do you know if it’s a better choice than trying to get worked into your PCP’s office or make a trip to the ER?

The Emergency Room is typically the most expensive option of the three, but it’s pretty clear-cut and straightforward when you go there: life-threatening and acute severe medical injuries. Suspected heart attack. A gunshot wound. A severe allergic reaction. If you’re in a panic and are encountering imminent danger of you losing your life, don’t hesitate to go to the ER.

Your Primary Care Physician (PCP) can handle your routine healthcare check-ups and routine issues. Annual health exams and standard bloodwork are good examples of something you’d visit your PCP for.

An Urgent Care center can help you with things that sit right between an ER and your PCP. Because you can’t always get worked in quickly to see your PCP, you might go to an Urgent Care facility if you suspect you have bronchitis, the flu, or a sinus infection, for example. These are things that need to be seen rather quickly so they don’t go into secondary infections, but it’s unlikely your PCP can work you in time to get you seen for them, and they certainly don’t carry the weight of being admitted to an ER. If it’s a mild illness, an Urgent Care facility is probably going to be your best bet.

Our Tip: If you are in any doubt about which of the three different types of medical facilities you should go to, our advice would be to call the Urgent Care center. They can advise you right away where to go for the most comprehensive care.

Receive Quick & Affordable Medical Attention at Crimson Care in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

If you seek a quick, walk-in primary care or urgent care center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama for you or your child, Crimson Care is what you need. You can trust the experienced physicians at Crimson Care. We are equipped to meet all of your physical exam and illness needs with compassionate and comprehensive exam services. Call us today at (205) 270-5285.

Feel free to drop in or schedule an appointment online.



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