Advance with MUSC Health

Alternatives to the Emergency Department

Advance With MUSC Health
August 10, 2021
Dr. Greg Perron, MUSC Health Primary Care, Ben Sawyer

By Dr. Greg Perron, MUSC Health Primary Care, Ben Sawyer

Determining where to go for urgent or emergent care can be confusing.

A mysterious rash on the ankle? Back Pain? A nagging chest pain? An unexpectedly high temperature in a child? Understandably, all these conditions can cause anxiety, sending us in search of the fastest care available, which many believe is the emergency room.

However, wait times at emergency departments, particularly at large trauma centers like MUSC Health, can be long if your condition is not life-threatening or emergent.

The good news is that more appropriate, less expensive and faster options are available across MUSC Health.

For those of you who have a primary care physician or a pediatrician, calling your doctor's office and discussing the symptoms with your care team is the recommended first option.

MUSC Health provides in-person and online visits. MUSC Health Primary Care clinics offer same-day sick visits, online video visits, and regularly scheduled appointments. For convenience, appointments can be scheduled online. Children's After Hours Care clinics also are available.

MUSC Health Virtual Care is another easy way to receive care from a healthcare provider through online video and non-video interviews that last from 5 to 15 minutes. Available to people of all ages, the virtual care option requires patients to fill out an online questionnaire. The responses are reviewed by MUSC Health providers, who typically respond to the patient in less than one hour. This virtual care option is available 24/7 and does not exceed $25.

For patients who require immediate medical care and can't see their regular doctor, MUSC Health has partnered with Doctors Care to improve access to urgent care in the Charleston area. Staffed by doctors, physician assistants, and nurses, Doctors Care clinics are safe, efficient, and less expensive alternatives to the ED. Doctors Care locations treat patients 6 months and older for non-life-threatening illnesses and also have onsite lab and x-ray services. Doctors Care locations are open evenings and weekends and cost about the same as a visit to your regular doctor.

Now back to that question about when to seek emergency care instead of urgent care. A rash, back, or joint pain can be treated by your doctor or an urgent care clinic. Chest pain or pressure? Call 911. Stroke symptoms like sudden difficulty speaking, weakness in one arm, or face drooping on one side? Call 911.

High fever? Your doctor's office or urgent care if it's a child, but if a stiff neck or confusion accompanies a high fever, go to the ED. Among the symptoms that require emergency - not urgent - treatment include broken bones, shortness of breath, sudden severe headache, suicidal thoughts, suspected poisoning, and head trauma.

Regardless of which MUSC Health facility you choose for your treatment and care, be assured that MUSC Health is committed to delivering the safest patient-centered care possible.

To make an appointment with an MUSC Health primary care provider, call 843-792-7000 or visit MUSC Health Primary Care.