Most people have a primary care doctor who they see on a semi-regular basis, but sometimes there are situations when it’s just not convenient to wait for an appointment. Your situation isn’t life-threatening, but it’s uncomfortable or urgent enough that you need to see a medical professional fairly quickly. Say it’s a weekend, after-hours (or before hours), or a holiday. Where can you go? One option is to visit a walk in urgent care center for treatment. Urgent care fills in that medical care gap between your regular doctor and the emergency room, offering an immediate, cost-effective, and qualified option if you need to see a medical professional in a timely fashion. There are many benefits to becoming well acquainted with your local urgent care center and understanding what can be treated there.
What’s the Scoop on Urgent Care?
Urgent care center rates are growing as more people “discover” their uses. They’ve always been around, but they’re increasingly becoming a resource for people who need to see a doctor at their own convenience. Around 20,000 physicians currently practice urgent care medicine and that number is expected to grow. This is perhaps because of the shortage of primary care physicians practicing — there are more patients who need quick care than primary care physicians to attend to them.
The Urgent Care Association of America also reports that around three million patients visit urgent care centers on a weekly basis and there are a little over 7,000 urgent care centers across the country. Of these, the majority has an accredited physician on site at all times. Furthermore, urgent care centers can often be closer to small towns or villages than a hospital, making healthcare more accessible.
What are the Benefits to Having Access to a Walk In Urgent Care Center?
Most urgent care centers have extended hours, which allows greater coverage, especially for those who work. If you can’t get in on your lunch break, for example, being able to see a medical professional before or after work is extremely helpful. Some urgent care clinics also often weekend hours (usually a higher rate than primary care physicians) and 85% of urgent care centers are open every day of the week. Plus, most urgent care centers operate on a walk in basis, meaning you don’t have to wait for an appointment.
Quick Wait Times
Visiting the doctor’s office (or the emergency room) can turn into a waiting game, due to overcrowding. Most urgent care centers have a wait time of less than a half hour and the total time spent in an urgent care office on average, clocks in around an hour. Not bad if you need to get in and out.
If you’re come down with a bad flu or an allergic reaction to poison ivy, the initial reaction might be to go to the emergency room, which can wind up costing you big. A walk in urgent care clinic will take many forms of insurance and not cost you thousands of dollars.
What Can I Be Treated For at Urgent Care?
Any minor disease or illness can be handled at urgent care. Allergic reactions, sprains, fractures, diarrhea, vomiting, urinary tract infections, high fevers, upper respiratory conditions, and more, are all common ailments treated at walk in urgent care centers. About four out of five urgent care centers offer fracture care. In 2012, the most common diagnosis was upper respiratory condition and the top procedure was wound care.
Pretty much any non life-threatening condition can be taken care of at an urgent care facillty. Some places may also offer flu shots, physicals, and other vaccinations, depending on their facilities. And some urgent care centers have X-ray equipment as well.
Next time you have a medical condition that needs to be looked at, and you don’t have time to schedule an appointment with your doctor, curb the instinct to head to the emergency room, and look up where your nearest urgent care center is!