The best place to get your health care is at your primary care doctor’s office. The problem is that often people become ill or injured at times when their doctor’s office is closed. If you find yourself in the position where you need medical treatment after hours or on the weekend, you have more options than just the emergency room. There are urgent care clinics in most parts of the country. It has been reported that there are currently at least 9,000 of these centers around the country.
Visits to the hospital emergency room really are just for true medical emergencies. That may sound obvious but every day, people end up getting their health care in these facilities. If you have an injury or condition that may result in your admission to the hospital, you should go get care at the emergency room. Here are a few examples of problems that need treatment in a hospital emergency room:
- Persistent chest pain
- Any stroke symptoms
- Bleeding that will not stop
- Severe pain
- Head injuries
This list is not exhaustive and other conditions might make a trip to the emergency room make a lot of sense. Here are some reasons to go to urgent care clinics:
Your family doctor’s office is closed and you need medical care. Most urgent care clinics are open seven days a week and are open after 7:00 pm on weekdays. Many are open during the week until 9:00 pm. You should call ahead to check but if you get sick or suffer an injury after your doctor’s office closed or over the weekend, you will probably be able to find a walk in clinic near your home.
You will have a much shorter wait time. When you go to the emergency room, you will wait a long time. New research shows that the wait times are just getting longer. The Urgent Care Association of America has reported that most people (69%) only have to wait about 15 to 20 mutes when they go to urgent care clinics around the country. They also found that many people are in and out of the urgent care center within an hour. You cannot say that about any emergency room in the world.
It is much cheaper to be treated at an urgent care clinic. The costs associated with health care at the emergency room are much higher than any other medical care. These costs are only increased when people misuse them. Most health insurance carriers and plans offer lower copayments for visits to the urgent care clinics for this very reason.
Your experience will be less stressful. Going to the hospital emergency room is stressful. There are ambulances coming and going and the wait is long. Most people do not enjoy their time. By contrast, the urgent care clinic is calm and quiet. If your child is injured, a trip to the urgent care clinic will be less scary than the emergency room.
Conditions and injuries that can be treated at an urgent care clinic:
- Sprains, strains and minor fractures: Many urgent care clinics have x-ray machines to diagnose these problems.
Respiratory infections: These are the most common reason people are seen at urgent care centers. They can also check you for strep throat or other issues to make sure your cold is just that.
Stomach problems: If you are having bad nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, you can get treatment from the urgent care clinic. If you are dehydrated as a result, many walk in clinics can also give you intravenous fluids (IV) fluids.
Most urgent care clinics offer travel medicine. If you are going to a part of the world that has a lot of malaria, you may want to head to a walk in clinic to get medicine to prevent getting that. Many urgent care clinics also offer the shots you may need such as for Yellow Fever. This is a service that is not offered by all primary care doctor’s offices.
The bottom line is that f you are sick or injured and your doctor’s office is closed, an urgent care center might be the best place to go.