Unfortunately, illnesses and injuries don’t fit themselves in around a schedule that works with yours. They can happen on any day, at any time. So what happens if you need to see a doctor before work or while you’re on vacation? When it’s a holiday? What happens if you can’t get an appointment with your doctor for a couple of weeks? This is where urgent care comes into play. There are over 7,000 urgent care centers in the United States, with over 20,000 physicians practicing urgent care medicine, so it’s likely that there’s one easily accessible to you. Urgent care clinics are a great place to go if you need to be seen by a doctor (but your condition isn’t life-threatening) and don’t have time to make an appointment.
Explain How Urgent Care Works
Urgent care centers are similar to walk-in clinics, in that patients can walk in (some centers do offer appointments though) and be treated for non-life threatening illnesses or injuries. Many urgent care centers are open seven days a week and have longer hours than doctors’ offices or walk-in clinics.
Annually, Americans get around one billion colds and between 5-20% get the flu. In some of these cases, their symptoms will be bad enough that they need to see a medical professional, but not urgent enough to send them to the emergency room. Urgent care is that sweet spot between your doctor and the ER.
These centers can treat everything from high fevers, vomiting and diarrhea to things like urinary tract infections, light stitches, and fracture care. In all cases, these are not life-threatening scenarios, but still need a doctor’s attention at the time.
What are the Benefits of Visiting an Urgent Care Clinic?
There are numerous benefits to getting to know your local urgent care center. For one, you’ll receive quality care at a fraction of the cost of going to the emergency room for a non-emergency illness or injury. Most clinics take a few different forms of insurance and the cost of visiting urgent care is significantly lower (by hundreds of dollars).
Your wait time will also be lower. A high percentage of urgent care centers will have patients in and out within an hour. Compare that to overcrowded emergency rooms where patients have to wait sometimes hours to be seen. It’s a good use of your time and especially helpful if you’re working within a tight timeframe (say, you’re on your lunch hour, for example).
Furthermore, many of these clinics have extended hours, are open seven days a week, and are sometimes open on holidays. Around 85% of urgent care centers are open seven days a week and many will open before 9 am and stay open past 6 pm. This makes your healthcare more accessible. If you can’t get out on your lunch break or you don’t have flex time in your schedule, you can go before or after work to get your medical needs taken care of.
What Sets Them Apart From Walk in Clinics?
Think of urgent care as an upgraded version of a walk-in clinic. Both offer a more affordable option for medical care than an emergency room (and a walk-in clinic is likely to be even less expensive than urgent care) and both can treat basic non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries.
However, urgent care can treat a higher level of injuries and illnesses and can offer longer hours and hours on the weekend, whereas walk in clinics are generally constrained by the hours of the building they’re housed in (think a pharmacy or a mall). Instead of being staffed by nurse practitioners, they’re staffed by physicians (which means the cost is usually a little higher than at a walk-in clinic). X-rays, IVs, and other more sophisticated procedures are also usually available.
It’s good to know what your healthcare options look like, past just your doctor’s office and the emergency room. It gives you greater convenience, flexibility, and control over your health (and can save you some money, besides!).
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