Care definitions

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What is emergency care?

A medical or psychiatric condition that requires immediate medical attention to prevent serious jeopardy to your health. Examples include:

  • chest pain or pressure
  • severe stomach pain that comes on suddenly
  • decrease in or loss of consciousness
  • severe shortness of breath

Learn more about emergencies. 

If you think you have a medical or psychiatric emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. Do not attempt to access emergency care through this website.

What is urgent care?

A care need that isn't an emergency but can't wait for routine (non-urgent) visits. Examples include:

  • minor injuries and cuts
  • sore throats and earaches
  • frequent or severe coughs
  • frequent urination or burning sensation when urinating

Learn more about urgent care.

What is routine (non-urgent) care?

An expected care need, like a scheduled visit to your doctor a recommended preventive screening. Examples include:

  • follow-up visits
  • adult and well-child checkups or physical exams
  • Pap test or immunization (shots)

Reviewed: May 2015
Kaiser Permanente reviewers

© 2015 Kaiser Permanente

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