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Call Us First! Based on data from the 2017 Colorado Health Access Survey done by the Colorado Health Institute earlier this year, up to 30-40% of recent emergency room visits were for conditions that the patients themselves said were likely things that could have been addressed by their regular doctor. So why did they go the emergency room? It was a combination of convenience, a need for care after-hours, and the inability to quickly get an appointment with their doctor.

Why is it important to visit your regular doctor instead of the emergency room? Unless it’s a true medical emergency, patients typically receive care that will have a greater impact on their health by seeing a provider in the clinic. Emergency room providers are often in a rush and must focus on the most emergent cases first. This means they only have time to stabilize patients enough for admittance to the hospital or to go home with orders to see their regular doctor. In the clinic setting, medical providers can take a much broader look at your health and take the time to help you reach a healthier you. Not only that, but the cost of care in the emergency room is much higher than at the clinic! Check with your insurance carrier to see what that means for your out-of-pocket costs.

Many communities have stand-alone urgent care centers, or walk-in clinics. While there are a few walk-in clinics with some evening and weekend hours, the Roaring Fork Valley has few options for patients needing care beyond the standard Monday – Friday office hours. In response, GMA has extended the services available to our patients:

  • 24/7/365 on-call providers with access to your chart. An answering service will answer your after-hours call: they can either leave a message for your care team to pick up the next day, or they can put you in contact with GMA’s on-call provider for that day. That provider (a doctor or a physician assistant) will assess your situation and help you decide on the best course of action. Sometimes the best answer is to go to the emergency room, but many times you can treat symptoms at home until you can get in to the clinic.
  • Extended hours in Glenwood Springs through 6pm Monday – Thursday and on Saturday mornings.
  • Same-day appointments are structured into every primary care provider’s schedules. Even if you are unable to see your regular provider, another provider may have an opening later in the day.
  •  And a clinic branch in Silt that includes a lab!

“EMERGENCY” A medical emergency is what the emergency room treats best. These are things that are life-threatening or could cause serious harm to health if not addressed immediately. Severe trauma, head injuries, chest pain, signs of stroke, difficulty breathing, fainting, or bleeding in your vomit, stool, or urine are examples of medical emergencies.

“URGENT” These are conditions that require some sort of care within 24 hours. Examples would include rashes or fevers.

“NON URGENT or ROUTINE” Conditions that are not likely to lead to worsening health outcomes if you are not seen by a medical professional within 24 hours. Some examples would be a cough without shortness of breath, diarrhea, or sore throat without fever.


Talk to your GMA care team today about our extended services, and when the emergency room is the right choice.

If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. Otherwise, Call us first! We’ll help make sure you get the right care at the right time by helping you stay out of the hospital and on the road to better health.