Know Where to Go For Care

boy giving high five to his pediatrician after medical examination at doctor's office

When you’re sick or injured, knowing where to go can save you time, money, and ensure you get the right care. From primary care to urgent care, telemedicine, and emergency departments, learn how to choose.

When you got sick or were injured, your choices for care used to be simple. You could call your primary care provider for an appointment or go to the local hospital’s emergency room.

There are now several more choices, including urgent care clinics and 24/7 telemedicine apps. Having more options is great, but it does make deciding where to go for care more complex. To help you make the right choice, we’ll break down which setting is the most appropriate for certain illnesses and injuries.

Why It’s Important

Where you choose to seek care is important for several reasons: 

  • Appropriateness. Emergency departments are equipped and staffed to help patients who have severe or life-threatening medical problems. People who go there seeking care for minor issues add to the overcrowding and consume valuable resources. Choosing the most appropriate setting for your illness or injury helps preserve emergency department capacity for your fellow Vermonters who need it.
  • Waiting time. Emergency departments are often very busy with lots of patients. Those with less severe illnesses or injuries may have to wait — possibly several hours — while medical professionals handle more serious cases. Your wait can be shorter if you choose an alternative setting.
  • Cost. Hospital emergency departments are the most-costly setting for care. You’ll pay more when it comes to copays, co-insurance, and other cost sharing if you are treated in the emergency department. Selecting a less expensive setting for care will save you money.

Primary Care

Your primary care provider can take care of many non-urgent problems. Most primary care offices leave some appointments open so that patients who call can be seen the same day. Being treated in the primary care setting will be the least expensive (it can even be free for members with zero dollar office visits in their health plan).

Conditions that can be treated by primary care providers include:

  • Colds, flu, and other respiratory infections 
  • Sore throat and coughs
  • Sinus or ear infections
  • Sprains
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea, vomiting, stomach flu
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Abdominal pain
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Rashes


When your primary care provider’s office is closed or doesn’t have a same-day appointment available, Blue Cross Vermont members have another convenient option. Telemedicine services are provided 24/7 through Amwell, including treatment for:

  • Respiratory infection
  • Sinus infection
  • Bronchitis
  • Fever
  • Cough, cold, and sore throat
  • Flu
  • Allergies
  • Rashes
  • Urinary tract infection

Members can access telemedicine services at When logging in or registering, use the service key VERMONT to see all services available to Blue Cross Vermont members.

Amwell also offers mental health support services. In addition, we now offer mental health support through two other providers, SonderMind and Valera Health. Check out our mental health telemedicine page for more information. 

Urgent Care

If you have a condition that needs immediate treatment but isn’t life-threatening and doesn’t warrant going to the emergency department, an urgent care clinic is a good choice. This type of clinic, which has extended night and weekend hours, is available in many parts of Vermont. You can walk in and get care without an appointment. They have some of the same equipment that hospital emergency departments use, such as x-ray machines. The cost will probably be less than the emergency department and the wait will likely be shorter.

Urgent care clinics can treat:

  • Minor cuts, including those that need stitches
  • Sprains and strains
  • Back or muscle pain
  • Dislocated shoulder and other joints
  • Minor fractures
  • Bronchitis
  • Minor burns
  • Minor allergic reactions
  • Animal bites and insect stings/bites

In addition, urgent care clinics can treat all the conditions that are usually handled by primary care providers (see list above).

Emergency Department

Severe or life-threatening conditions should always be treated by dialing 9-1-1 to bring an ambulance to your location, or by going directly to the closest hospital’s emergency department (if you have someone to drive you there).

Conditions that should be treated in the emergency department include:

  • Symptoms of a heart attack or stroke
  • Chest pain 
  • Difficulty breathing (shortness of breath)
  • Severe abdominal pain 
  • Severe headache 
  • Seizures
  • Severe burns
  • Major cuts (uncontrolled bleeding)
  • Neck, head, or spinal injuries
  • Compound fracture (bone that goes through the skin)
  • Sexual assault  

When In Doubt

We hope this information has been helpful in determining the right place for receiving care. If you are still unsure where to go, and it is not a life-threatening situation, give your primary care provider a call. If it is after office hours, many primary care practices will have a provider on call. They can discuss your symptoms with you and help you decide the best place to go for treatment.