April 25th, 2024

Viva Vitality: Know your options

By Jennifer Sturm on March 1, 2024.

Across Alberta there are options available to get the care you need when you need it. Yet when in the throes of a medical event, illness or injury, knowing where to start and how to find the right information and assistance can be overwhelming. How do you know when to visit the emergency department (ED), a walk-in clinic, or make an appointment with a family physician? Where can you find care, and information to cope in the meantime?

Albertans are encouraged to call Health Link at 811 to determine if symptoms require a physician appointment, an ED visit, or an ambulance. Similar guidance can be found online at both ahs.ca/knowyouroptions and ahs.ca/heal, and through the Symptom Checker at myhealthalberta.ca.

Registered nurses are available 24/7 through Health Link to answer questions and can provide information about nearby walk-in clinics.

Albertans can also access physicians, nurse practitioners, and counsellors online. Many services can be provided virtually, including diagnosis, prescriptions, review of blood pressure or blood sugar monitoring, ordering bloodwork and diagnostic imaging, and more.

One benefit of virtual care is that the appointment is often booked and completed in less time than it takes to talk to a physician at the ED or walk-in clinic. It is also completed from the comfort of your own home, which is helpful when you aren’t feeling well. Depending on the provider, service may involve a fee which are often reimbursed through health insurance.

A local pharmacist might also save a trip to a physician because they can diagnose minor conditions and provide medication and health advice in the same visit.

Prescribing pharmacists can provide swabs and antibiotics for common infections like strep throat, and pharmacies may be open later than a physician’s clinic. Another advantage of pharmacist care is that you can phone in advance to ask if the pharmacist can help you directly and if any fees are involved.

The ED is for life-threatening emergencies: heart attack, stroke, difficulty breathing, new seizures, broken bones, head injury, and bleeding that doesn’t stop after 10 minutes of constant, firm pressure.

Most other health issues can be resolved outside of the ED, so be sure to consider a different source of medical care when your concern is not life-threatening. If you don’t know where to find alternate care, call 811.

By knowing your options, you not only have access to the information and care you need when you need it, but you help free up the ED for those who are truly experiencing a medical emergency.

Jen Sturm is a Registered Nurse at Medicine Hat Community Health Services. Know your options so you can get the care you need when you need it. Visit ahs.ca/knowyouroptions

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