Many patients don’t think about the different types of doctors until they get sick or need medical attention. With many options for medical care now available to those in need, it can be difficult to decide exactly what sort of physician is best for the current situation. Here are three of the most common types of medical centers, and what sort of illnesses and injuries they treat.

Routine Care

Routine care centers are the sort of clinics that come to mind when most think of visiting the doctor. They operate on regular business hours, and they often require an appointment before a visit. Physicians will check a patient’s symptoms and prescribe medication if needed. Routine care centers can also perform physicals for school or job requirements. These clinics tend to be the most affordable healthcare option, and they are popular for patients whose illnesses aren’t immediately urgent.

Urgent Care

Urgent care clinics tend to have extended hours, shorter waits, and more accessible health care for issues that need to be treated more quickly. Many patients will visit an urgent care clinic if they become sick over the weekend or at any other time that their personal doctor is not available. This can also include injuries that aren’t life-threatening but probably need to be seen before your regular doctor opens again. These clinics have doctors who can prescribe medication the same as a routine care center, and many insurance companies include this sort of care under their coverage plans. However, it’s always best to check with your provider to make sure before you go, as urgent care clinics can cost more than routine care centers.

Emergency Rooms

Emergency rooms are sometimes used in place of urgent care centers by patients who don’t have urgent care physicians in their areas. However, if there is not an immediate need for treatment, emergency rooms should be used as a last resort. These centers provide fast care in situations where treatment just can’t wait– severe dehydration, heart attacks, car accidents, gunshot wounds, and so on. Generally, the more life-threatening a patient’s condition, the faster they will be treated. If a patient visits an emergency room with a non-serious illness, they will probably be required to wait for up to several hours. However, if many patients visit at the same time, this can stretch resources thin and make it difficult for doctors to treat those who need help most quickly. Emergency rooms tend to be more expensive than care clinics that provide the same services, so unless the patient’s life is in danger, it’s best to visit another type of physician.

Always see your doctor if you feel like something is wrong. Waiting will only make your illness worse and can become dangerous is left untreated. Pick the right physician for your situation and get the help you need.