How to Choose Between Primary Care, Urgent Care, the Emergency Room and Urgent Aid

Choosing where to go when you need healthcare right away depends a lot on what you need care for and how sick or injured you are. This guide can help you get healthcare in the way that best fits your needs.

  • Always call 911 or go the emergency room right away for serious health condition that may be life or limb threatening.
  • Your primary care doctor is the best person to manage your health over time and should be your first contact in non-emergency situations.
  • Visit an urgent care clinic for a medical problem that needs to be treated right away, but is not considered life-threatening.
  • Our south suburban urgent aid clinic locations are a unique hybrid of ER-level care and are designed for patients whose condition or injury requires efficient, high-quality emergency services.

When to Contact Your Primary Care Doctor

As your main healthcare provider, your primary care physician (PCP) has extensive knowledge of your medical history and past conditions. They offer care for routine checkups and preventive screenings and work closely with any specialists who you need for short- or long-term medical care.

Common reasons to contact your primary care doctor include: 

  • Annual checkups and wellness visits
  • General concerns
  • Chronic conditions, such as diabetes, allergies and high blood pressure
  • Non-emergency questions
  • Prescription refills
  • Preventive screenings
  • Regular physicals
  • Sore throat
  • Vaccinations
  • Video visits
  • Weight changes

Primary Care at UChicago Medicine

Our expansive primary care team offers comprehensive care for common conditions and is part of a network of healthcare experts who work together to treat your unique needs.

If you have a primary care doctor at UChicago Medicine, you can use your MyChart account to schedule an appointment or communicate with your provider online.

If you’re looking for a UChicago Medicine primary care doctor, you can find a physician near you and schedule an appointment online easily.

Learn more about our primary care locations

When to Go to Urgent Care

If you need to be treated right away for a minor illness or injury, but it is not considered life-threatening – urgent care may be the best option.

Common conditions treated at urgent care: 

  • Testing and treatment for COVID, flu, and RSV (results in an hour or less)
  • Sprains and strains
  • Strep throat
  • Upset stomach
  • STDs/UTIs
  • Ear pain and infection
  • Rashes and insect bites
  • Stitches and care for cuts and burns
  • View the full list

Urgent Care at UChicago Medicine

We are proud to offer urgent care services at our UChicago Medicine Dearborn StationUChicago Medicine Medical Group - Homewood and UChicago Medicine River East locations. This center is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Laboratory and imaging services are available on site and both adult and pediatric patients can be treated.

Learn more about our urgent care locations

When to Seek Emergency Care

If you are dealing with a health emergency, call 911 or go the emergency room right away.

Common conditions treated in an emergency room:

  • A change in mental status (such as confusion)
  • Loss of consciousness (if you pass out)
  • Multiple injuries or a possible broken bone in areas like the ribs, skull, face or pelvis
  • Seizures
  • Serious burns and cuts (cuts that won’t stop bleeding or wounds that won’t close)
  • Severe allergic reaction (swelling lips, difficulty swallowing or breathing)
  • Signs of a heart attack, including chest pain, difficulty breathing, left arm or left jaw pain and sudden weakness or dizziness
  • Stroke symptoms, including slurred speech or sudden numbness/weakness in any area of your body, facial droop, loss of balance or vision
  • Trouble breathing
  • Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy (up to 20 weeks) — If you are at least 20 weeks pregnant, go the Family Birth Center Emergency Department.

Emergency Care at UChicago Medicine

Our emergency departments at UChicago Medicine in Hyde Park and UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial provide 24/7 medical care for people who are severely injured or ill. Our Hyde Park location is a Level 1 adult trauma and stroke center and provides comprehensive emergency care to the area with a Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center at Comer Children's Hospital and a Burn and Complex Wound Center,

Learn more about our emergency services

When to Visit our Urgent Aid Locations

Urgent aid is an extension of the emergency department at UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial and is designed to provide immediate care for patients whose condition or injury requires fast, quality lower-level emergency services.

Common conditions treated at urgent aid locations include:

  • Broken bones
  • Ear infections/ache
  • Eye injuries (scratches, swelling, pink eye)
  • Flu symptoms
  • Minor burn injuries
  • Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Respiratory infections and bronchitis
  • Sprains and bruises

Urgent Aids

Our urgent aid locations in Flossmoor, Tinley Park and Calumet City work hand-in-hand with our emergency department at UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial, which ensures that we can provide expert care for any emergent medical issue.

The cost of an urgent aid visit is the same as the emergency department of UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial for the same level of care. The co-pay for emergency services will apply to your urgent aid visit, which may be higher than the co-pay for services provided by urgent care centers that are not part of a hospital’s emergency department.

Learn more about our urgent aid locations