When you need to see a doctor as soon as possible, you have several options, including the emergency room, urgent care centers, and telemedicine. Although your Lam benefits cover your care in all these situations, your symptoms and other factors can help you choose the best option for immediate treatment.

Urgent care vs. ER: when to go where


If you have an injury or illness that you feel is threatening your life, you should go to the emergency room right away.

For life-threatening emergencies, medical professionals advise that you head to the nearest hospital emergency room (ER). To get immediate treatment for other issues, you and your covered dependents can use an urgent care center or telemedicine. 

Although you may be tempted to head for the ER to get immediate care for conditions that are less serious, there are good reasons not to.

  • If you go to a hospital ER for a nonemergency issue, you may wait for hours before you get care. That’s because patients with life-threatening emergencies will be seen first. 
  • You’ll pay far less for a visit to an urgent care center or telemedicine than a trip to the ER.
  • You can have a virtual visit with a doctor from anywhere via your smartphone or tablet. You don’t have to leave the house (or wherever you happen to be). Based on an assessment of your symptoms, the doctor will either recommend treatment or tell you if you need to go to the emergency room.

Anthem members: Anthem’s website can help you decide where to get care. Visit the website to find an urgent care center near you too.

Kaiser members: Kaiser clarifies the best places to get care in different circumstances in this article. If you aren’t sure whether your condition is life-threatening, call the number on the back of your ID card.

Here are some examples of when you would go to the emergency room vs. using urgent care:

Emergency roomUrgent care
Heart attack symptoms (chest pain, trouble breathing, clammy skin)Animal bite*
Stroke symptoms (trouble speaking or understanding, sudden facial or limb weakness)Broken bone*
Severe trauma/head injuryCut that requires stitches*
Severe bleeding (doesn’t stop with pressure after five minutes)Cough, sore throat, high fever, flu
Loss of consciousnessEarache and sinus pain
 Minor burn
 Urinary tract infection
 Vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach or belly pain

* Seek treatment at an urgent care facility instead of via telemedicine in these situations.

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No matter where you may be, you can visit with a board-certified doctor via your smartphone, tablet, or computer through LiveHealth Online. Visit the Telemedicine page to learn more.

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