Where should you go for care, walk-in clinic or emergency department?

Barb LeDucNews, Walk-In Clinic

In times of injury or illness, it can be difficult to decide which level of medical care one needs. Unless there is a life-threatening emergency, it is recommended that care starts with your personal clinic.

Your physician clinic is the place for common illnesses, minor injuries, regular physical exams and health problems when advice is needed. Your healthcare provider knows your health history, including any underlying conditions you may have. Many primary-care clinics offer extended hours to accommodate busy schedules.

Emergency departments

Hospital emergency departments are for very serious problems such as chest pain, severe abdominal pain, severe burns, uncontrolled bleeding, breathing difficulty, sudden dizziness or loss of balance, numbness in face, arm or leg; severe headache, seizures, high fever or any condition felt life threatening. If you experience any of these, call 911 immediately or get someone to drive you to the nearest emergency department.

Using an emergency department for non-emergent problems has its downside:

  • An emergency visit will cost you far more than your provider’s office or urgent care, as much as three times more.
  • The visit will take longer and, if not a serious problem, you may experience a longer wait since emergency departments help patients based on severity.
  • You will see a provider that probably is not familiar with you and your medical history.

The Emergency Department of Island Hospital holds a Level III Trauma Designation (Level II for stroke). This means that emergency physicians and providers are on site 24 hours per day, seven days a week. The higher stroke designation is made possible by a collaborative effort with Swedish Neuroscience Institute that links the Island Hospital Emergency Department to Swedish Medical Center’s renowned stroke experts via real-time videoconferencing.

Walk-in clinics

Walk-in clinics – often referred to as urgent care or immediate care – provide care for non-life-threatening medical problems that could be worse if not treated. These clinics offer walk-in visits and typically have extended weekday and weekend hours. Care provided by walk-in clinics includes common illnesses such as colds, flu, migraines and more. In addition, these clinics treat minor injuries such as sprains, cuts, burns, minor broken bones and eye injuries. The cost, and co-pay, is less than an emergency department, and if your problem is too serious for a walk-in clinic, they will refer you to an emergency department.

The Walk-In Clinic at Island Hospital is open seven days a week: Monday – Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sundays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and, holidays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Walk-In Clinic is located at 2511 M Avenue, Anacortes. Call (360) 299-4211 for more information.