Your guide to doctor visits

Your primary care provider can help you get the type of care you need, when you need it

Your guide to doctor visits

There are plenty of reasons to see your Sanford Health doctor. It could be an acute one-time concern or a chronic issue that needs ongoing attention or part of a long-range plan to maintain good health.

In all cases, the visit provides you the opportunity to collaborate with your primary care provider on the best path going forward. It can be helpful to know what your options are when seeking care.

Andrew Burgard, M.D., practices family medicine at Sanford West Fargo Clinic and treats acute and chronic conditions. He provides preventive health care for newborns to older adults.

We recently talked with Dr. Burgard about your choices when you are seeking non-emergency attention for your health needs.

What are the types of visits that you can see your primary care provider for?

  • Wellness visits are the most common visit that we do. It’s a checkup that also reviews a patient’s health history.
  • Clinic visits address general health concerns. It could be a new problem or a follow-up for a known condition.
  • Same-day appointments or urgent care visits sometimes involve less serious issues that can be addressed easily, or involve more urgent concerns we would want to address quickly.

When should you see your primary care provider for a wellness visit?

We would encourage an annual visit for most people to have their preventive health reviewed. At a wellness visit we review your preventive recommendations – things like cancer screenings, vaccinations and screening for other conditions like high blood pressure or lab work for diabetes or high cholesterol.

When should you see your primary care provider for a clinic visit?

Clinic visits are very common and most often address general health concerns. At a clinic visit, we can address new problems that have just come up or follow up on a known condition like high blood pressure. A clinic visit gives you the opportunity to spend time with your provider discussing a topic without scheduling a wellness visit and can be scheduled as often as you need them.

When should you see your primary care provider for a same-day appointment?

Same-day appointments can address less serious issues that can be easily treated. It could be an acute infection or a respiratory issue that can be treated within the same day by several different people on your clinic team.

A same-day appointment could also address more urgent concerns like sprains, earaches or urinary tract infections where we would encourage people to get evaluated more acutely and more quickly. These would not be situations where you would want to schedule a regular appointment and wait weeks to see someone.

Related: Emergency vs urgent care: The ER isn’t for everything

There are also times when a regularly scheduled visit is not feasible. That’s why at Sanford we continue to maintain a robust walk-in and urgent care service in all our markets. We want to be there when you can’t access your clinic during regular business hours, or your provider isn’t available to meet your needs at that time.

While scheduling a same-day visit, there may also be times where there is a more emergent or concerning symptom where we would request you seek care immediately. We can help you with that when you call your clinic and we can relay advice on what you should do based on your current concern.

Why schedule a same-day visit instead of using urgent care?

There are types of conditions that are relatively easily managed no matter where you go, whether it’s your regular clinic or whether it’s utilizing one of our urgent care or walk-in spaces. But if it’s a longer ongoing issue, or something that has turned into a more chronic problem, there are a lot of advantages to getting plugged in with your primary care provider for ongoing management of those conditions. Or if something isn’t getting better, then it’s important to follow up with your primary care clinician to monitor it and see if more evaluation needs to happen.

How can you avoid confusion with your provider about the kind of visit you want?

It is important prior to a visit that a patient indicate whether they want a wellness visit or if they are addressing new health concerns. If it’s a new health concern, we may give that a different priority and be able to accommodate a patient more quickly.

Also with wellness visits, we will ask people to state whether they are wanting a wellness visit because many times there are regulations about how often they can schedule a visit. We try to help patients in that process and make sure they’re aware that it might still be too soon for another wellness visit in relation to their insurance plan.

When new health concerns are addressed at a wellness visit, are patients billed for a clinic visit?

This can depend on the kind of insurance you have. With Medicare visits, you can expect that if it’s outside the predefined topics of a Medicare wellness visit, there will most likely be an additional cost. With commercial health plans, it varies from insurer to insurer.

It’s best to go in with the assumption that if you have additional questions or other chronic conditions that are being managed during a wellness visit, it’s likely there will be an additional charge that will come with it.

How can you schedule a visit with your primary care provider?

  • Wellness visits can be scheduled by calling your clinic or online through My Sanford Chart by selecting Wellness Visit.
  • Clinic visits can be scheduled by calling your clinic or online through My Sanford Chart by selecting Clinic Visit.
  • Same-day appointments can be scheduled by calling your clinic to see if your primary care provider has an appointment available that same day.

Learn more

Posted In Family Medicine, Fargo, Health Plan, Healthy Living, Internal Medicine