What are Urgent Care or Walk in Clinics
The urgent care movement started in the United States sometime in the 1970s, currently there are about 6800 urgent cares in the nationwide. Over the years the urgent care model has grown across the globe to countries including Australia, England, New Zealand and Israel. Along with other services, such as rapid std testing and pediatric care, urgent care centers provide medical treatment to individuals who have injuries or symptoms that can not wait until a doctors office is open, but are not inherently life threatening in nature. Urgent care centers have a variety of health professionals on staff including physicians, nurse practitioners, and over 65% have at least one physician always present.
Advantages of Urgent Care or Walk in Clinics
Wait times are generally shorter at urgent care centers. More than half of patients are seen within a quarter of an hour or less, and about 80% of most visits last an hour or less. Urgent cares also are open later than doctor’s offices. In a study by the CDC, 48% of ER patients who did not qualify for admission to the hospital responded that they chose to get health care at the Emrgency Room because their doctor’s office was closed. According to a study conducted in 2010, nearly 20% of patients that sought treatment at hospital ERs could have been treated at urgent care centers. Considering the average ER visit can cost $1,500 as opposed to the $150 cost of an urgent care visit, patients nationwide could save an estimated $4.4 billion each year in associated treatment costs.
When to Go to an Emergency Room
While urgent care has many advantages over ERs, there are certain conditions which require a prompt visit to the ER. Do not go to an Urgent Care center with these medical emergencies:
Shortness of breath
Persistent Chest Pain
Serious Head Wounds
Loss of Eyesight
Seizures or Loss of Consciousness
Of course, this is not a comprehensive list, but bear in mind if you have an injury or illness that can be potentially life threatening an Emergency Room is probably the best option for you. But, if you are non life threatening having health issues that can’t wait until your physician’s office is open, an urgent care can provide you affordable and timely treatment.