If you’re on vacation and away from your doctor and you or your child fracture a bone or break out in a rash, the emergency room isn’t always the place to head. There are sure to be urgent care locations near your area and visiting an urgent care center is often better for treating non-life-threatening incidents like a high fever or bad case of the flu, a trip or fall, skin rashes, minor broken bones, or for a urinary tract infection. Urgent care centers are staffed by physicians and indeed, 50% of urgent care centers are often owned by a physician or group of them, so the quality of care you receive is just as high as if you went to the emergency room or your own doctor. Urgent care centers can also make referrals to other specialized medical professionals (such as an allergist or gynecologist), if needed.
What Does Urgent Care Provide?
Urgent care is set up to treat emergencies that aren’t life-threatening. In case of a stroke or heart attack, severe head injury or bleeding, and pregnancy-related issues, for example, you’ll want to head straight to the emergency room. However, for issues that can’t wait for you to see your regular doctor, but aren’t life-threatening, urgent care is the perfect place to go.
Urgent care can also handle regular check-ups, vaccinations, and physicals (for sports, travel, etc.,). In some cases, they may be able to issue medication like birth control if you can’t get in to see your usual doctor. Depending on the urgent care, X-rays, fracture care, and other specialized treatments or diagnosis techniques may also be available. Urgent care centers also partner with medical labs to get you the results you need and most take various forms of insurance. It’s always good to check to see that the urgent care center near you takes your insurance; if they don’t, see what urgent care locations near you do.
What are the Benefits of Visiting Urgent Care Versus the ER?
When you visit an urgent care center, you’re more likely to be seen quickly than if you went to the ER. Even though urgent care centers have a significant amount of visitors (20% have over 450 visits a week), that’s still much less traffic than an ER sees.
As a result, around 60% of all urgent care centers had a wait time of under 15 minutes to see a physician and 65% of urgent care centers had a physician on the premises at all times. The Urgent Care Association of America states that just under 60% of patients waited under 15 minutes and 80% of visits were under an hour. Instead of languishing in a waiting room for long periods of time, head to urgent care, get treated, and get out to resume your day.
A visit to urgent care is also much less expensive than a trip to the ER. Co-pays for urgent care may hover around $20-25 per visit, depending on your insurance, whereas co-pays at the emergency room can be as high as $100. The average emergency room cost can be over $1,000, whereas an urgent care visit will rarely run you over $200.
If more people looked into urgent care locations rather than automatically heading to the ER, overcrowding in emergency rooms could also be dramatically reduced. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that about half of all adult ER patients who sought treatment at the ER because their physicians’ offices were closed were actually not sick enough to be seeking treatment at the hospital. Visiting urgent care can take a huge burden off emergency room staff and could even reduce complaints from ER visitors about long wait times, overcrowding, and overflow beds.
Urgent care centers are becoming more and more sophisticated and some can offer IV fluids and use advanced electronic prescription ordering systems and computerized systems to see lab and imaging results, collect patient information and billing info, condition and procedure coding, and to gather notes. The majority of patients are quite pleased with their experiences at urgent care locations and you can be too!