ER or Primary Care Provider: When To Know Where To Go

Batesville, Ark.--Seconds count during a medical emergency, which is why access to immediate care is critically important.  The White River Health System network includes three Emergency Rooms: White River Medical Center (WRMC) in Batesville, WRMC Medical Complex in Cherokee Village, and Stone County Medical Center in Mountain View.  Over 3,500 patients are treated at these facilities each month, and each patient who comes to the ER receives an appropriate medical screening. 

“Every patient who comes through our doors does so because they have a health concern,” said Dr. Doug Bernard, WRMC Chief Medical Officer.  “ER Physicians and nurses choose emergency medicine out of a genuine desire to care for patients needing immediate care, although, many of the patients being treated in ERs across the nation can be just as easily treated by their primary care provider.”

Situations that don’t require emergency medical care can increase ER wait times and cause frustration for patients.  “Education on how to recognize a medical emergency,” Dr. Bernard says, is the key to accessing medical care in the most appropriate setting.  Patients who fear they are having a stroke or heart attack, have deep cuts, possible broken bones, trauma to head, neck, back or eyes, sudden severe pain, or pregnancy concerns, for example, should not hesitate to come to the ER. Those with mild fevers, sore throats, colds, earaches, headaches, joint pain, mild or moderate pain, or coughs should consult their primary care provider. 

The Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care has published guidelines for medical screenings in Emergency Rooms.  The guidelines help hospitals direct patients to the most appropriate setting for care while ensuring that no patient is denied emergency medical care.  These guidelines include referring patients to their primary care provider for non-emergency conditions and notifying patients that their insurance may not cover the cost of non-emergency care if it is provided in an Emergency Room.  

“It is important for patients to understand these new guidelines when considering coming to the ER for care,” said Dr. Bernard. “No patient will be denied care; however, as a result of these new guidelines put in place by the AFMC, patients might instead be re-routed to their primary care provider so those with emergencies can better be served in our facilities.”

This change is taking place in hospitals across Arkansas.

For more information on when to go to the ER vs. when to call a primary care provider, visit or read the link on White River Health System’s Facebook page.