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Understanding Health Care Facilities

There are many kinds of health care facilities. You can get health care for yourself and your family at many of these. You don’t always need to go to a hospital or emergency room. Where you go will depend on what you need.

Look on the web or in the phone book to find health care facilities near you. Check under clinics or health services. You can also check under rehabilitation services or centers.

Your primary care doctor

Your personal doctor is the place to start in the health care system. Your doctor is often part of a group of doctors (medical practice). This is your "medical home." You can get all of the health care services you need by starting with your doctor. He or she can give treatment. And your doctor can  help coordinate other health care services you may need.

Your primary doctor diagnoses and treats both acute and chronic illnesses. He or she can also help you stay healthy and protect you from illness. You can get counseling through your doctor. You can also talk with a health teacher to learn more about your condition. Your doctor's practice may include not only other doctors, but also other health professionals.

Most of your health care problems can be managed by your primary doctor. It's best if he or she is in your own town. That's so your doctor can help you find other health services you may need. He or she will be able to tell you where to go for certain types of care.

Urgent care center

Urgent care centers give medical care right away if you can't see your own doctor. These places can treat  acute and chronic illnesses and injuries. They don't  replace your doctor. An urgent care center can help  if your regular doctor is on vacation. Or if you can't get an appointment with your doctor as soon as you need to. They are also the place to go when you get ill outside of regular office hours. You won't have to wait  for hours in a hospital emergency room.

Emergency room (ER)

The ER is only for serious illness and injury. In the ER, you will be looked at and be treated. This may be for medical, surgical, or psychiatric care. You can get emergency care in a hospital. Or you can get it at a separate  emergency department. It may also be available in an urgent care clinic. Or in an emergency medical response vehicle or at a disaster site.

Outpatient services

In many cases, you can be treated as an outpatient. This means you don't have to be admitted to a hospital. Outpatient services include:

  • ER treatment

  • Monitoring

  • Outpatient surgery

  • Lab tests

  • X-rays


Hospitals play an important role in the health care system. Hospitals have a staff of doctors and other medical professionals, and rooms where patients stay. They give care round the clock. This care can be medical, surgical, mental health, and nursing. Hospitals also offer a range of care for acute and chronic problems. They also care for you while you recover from surgery or are in treatment for an injury.

Inpatient rehabilitation facility (IRF)

An IRF gives intense rehabilitation treatment. It can be done in an inpatient rehabilitation hospital. Or it can be done as part of a rehabilitation hospital. A group of health care professionals from different specialties coordinates your care. Your health care team may have:

  • Rehabilitation doctor

  • Registered nurse

  • Social worker

  • Care manager

  • Physical therapist

  • Occupational therapist

  • Speech-language pathologist

  • Expert on prosthetics or orthotics

People with complex medical conditions are usually treated at an IRF. These conditions include neurological, musculoskeletal, and orthopedic problems.

An IRF has skilled nursing care 24 hours a day. This care is supervised by a doctor. You also see a doctor at least 3 times a week. Rehabilitation therapy usually occurs 5 days a week for at least 3 hours a day. Therapy sessions may vary, depending on your medical condition and your doctor’s practices.

Comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation facility (CORF)

Outpatient rehabilitation means you travel to a clinic, hospital, or rehabilitation facility for treatment. You can go home the same day. A group of health care professionals from different specialties coordinates your care. Your health care team may include:

  • Doctor

  • Licensed or registered nurse

  • Physical therapist

  • Occupational therapist

  • Respiratory therapist

  • Social worker

  • Speech-language pathologist

A CORF gives skilled outpatient rehabilitation therapy. The length of your session at a CORF may vary, depending on your medical condition and your doctor’s practices. It can last from 30 minutes to more than an hour. It's used for conditions like back and neck problems, and knee injuries in people who are ill or disabled. It's also for nerve and brain problems like stroke. You can also get care for some skin disorders like wounds, burns, or diabetic foot sores.

Skilled nursing facility

A skilled nursing facility could be part of a nursing home or a hospital. It offers long- and short-term care. This facility will offer nursing care 24 hours a day. You can also get:

  • Physical or occupational therapy

  • Speech language services

  • Medical social services

  • Medicine treatment

These services are all under the direction of a doctor. This type of care is often used if you are very sick. Or you may have this care if you are recovering from a serious accident or surgery. You can get the treatment you need  and get help with bathing, eating, and walking. 


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