Most doctor’s offices are only open during regular business hours and during the week. Only a handful have after hours care or are open on the weekend. The problem, of course, is that it is possible to become ill or injured after business hours and on the weekend. There are times when you can wait to get to see your primary care doctor, and this is ideal but there are times when you just cannot wait. The issue is, is the problem bad enough that it warrants a trip to the emergency room? The good news is that there are medical walk in clinics all over the United States where you can get treatment after hours and on the weekend.
Urgent care clinics and medical walk in clinics were started in the 1970s. Several emergency room doctors saw that there was a need for medical clinics where people could go for medical problems that could not wait for the doctor’s office but did not need to be seen in a hospital emergency room. The majority of these medical walk in clinics are open until at least 7:00 pm during the week (some are open until 9:00 pm) and on the weekends. These clinics provide many of the services that people need from the emergency room but cost a lot less than the care given in an emergency department.
In 2012, there were more than 136 million emergency room visits, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some organizations, such as the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, have estimated that as many as 30 to 50% of all of visits to emergency rooms around the country are for non-urgent medical matters. The number of emergency room visits that are unnecessary has been estimated to represent about 56%, according to the New England Health Institute. In 2012, muscle sprains and strains, upper respiratory infections and minor cuts made up the top three complaints of people going to emergency rooms. All of these problems can be treated effectively at a medical walk in clinic.
These are some of the conditions that can be treated in medical walk in clinics:
- Muscle strains and sprains.
- Minor fractures. About four in every five medical walk in clinics can offer care for fractures.
- Moderate back injuries.
- Accidents or falls.
- Breathing problems such as asthma.
- Flus or fevers.
- Bad coughs and sore throats.
- Vomiting with or without diarrhea and dehydration. Many medical walk in clinics can administer intravenous fluids if a person is suffering from dehydration.
- Urinary tract infections.
This list is not at all total and there are other things that the medical staff and doctors at the local medical walk in clinics can treat. Often walk in clinics can offer travel medicine, which is not always offered at a primary care physician’s office. If you are planning to go to some exotic places, you may be able to get your medicine to prevent malaria or the shots you need at the local walk in clinic. You should call before you go.
There are times when your best bet is to be seen in an emergency room. Anytime an illness or injury may be serious enough to warrant being admitted to the hospital, you should be evaluated in the emergency room. These are examples of conditions that should be dealt with in the emergency room:
- Severe and persistent chest pain.
- Severe and persistent stomach pain.
- Any loss of consciousness.
- Any stroke symptoms such as slurred speech.
- Sudden paralysis.
- High fevers in babies or young children.
- Wounds from stabbing or gunshots.
If you see a family doctor and they know you, they can be a great resource and let you know if they think that you need to be seen in an emergency room rather than going to a walk in clinic. If you do not have a regular primary care doctor and do not think your injury or illness is life threatening, you should be seen in a walk in clinic. They usually see people within about 15 minutes of their arrival. If you do need to go to the emergency room, they can tell you.