Urgent Care: Less Crowds & Less Waiting Times
Urgent care medical centers offer flexible walk-in treatment options for minor to moderate medical issues. A regular doctor’s office can have crowded waiting rooms and overbooked appointment schedules, making waiting times inconvenient. A major benefit offered by an urgent care medical center is its ability to see walk-in patients quickly. Many urgent care centers are open seven days a week, which also means less waiting time between the onset of your symptoms and the time it takes to get them treated.
Walk-ins comprise the majority of most urgent care patients, but appointments are also available to see specific doctors on designated days. It is even possible your primary care doctor is on-staff at a local urgent care, either part time or with a full schedule. While convenience is a primary appeal for visiting an urgent care center, more reasons do exist. Discover the benefits of visiting an urgent care center and how to find a qualified center near you.
Urgent Care Is Not for Life-Threatening Emergencies or Serious Injuries
Urgent care centers are qualified and equipped for handling medical situations up to a certain, limited level of urgency. The doctors, nurses and physician assistants on staff are certainly trained and certified as expected. The centers themselves are equipped to handle general, common medical issues such as colds, rashes and infections. Some centers can treat more severe allergic reactions and less intense injuries such as sprains and even minor bone fractures. Urgent care is not designed to handle life-threatening emergencies or serious injuries. In the event of a life threatening emergency or serious injury dial 911 for an ambulance or go directly to the closest hospital emergency room.
Who Is On-Staff at an Urgent Care Center?
The majority of urgent care centers in the U.S. staff regular doctors and physicians, just like in an ER or your regular doctor’s office. There are also nurse practitioners and physician assistants on-staff. Like doctors, the latter two are qualified to diagnose your issues, present treatment options and prescribe medication. Due to the amount of days and long hours most urgent care centers are open, it is quite common a nurse practitioner or physician assistant will assist you when you register as a walk-in patient. Urgent care centers simply cannot keep doctors on staff seven days a week, ten to twelve hours a day.
Comparing Urgent Care, Doctor’s Offices and Emergency Rooms
Hospital emergency rooms (ER) are equipped to handle life-threatening emergencies and serious injuries. These can include food poisoning, shortness of breath, broken bones, heart attacks, gun shot wounds and more. Many ER facilities contain advanced technology and equipment such as MRI and EKG machines and have larger staff.
Doctors’ offices are more specialized even if run by a general practitioner. There is rarely a situation where a doctor can be seen in his or her office without an appointment. Insurance requirements and payment options for a regular doctor visit are more limited and specific than those associated with an urgent care visit. The upside is your doctor likely has a better understanding of your medical history and the manner in which you explain your symptoms. Appointments, however, sometimes have to be booked weeks or months in advance.
Urgent care centers are capable of providing the same type and quality of general care as available in a primary care doctor’s office and are likely open every day. There is less medical history kept on file in urgent care so you might have to fill out more paperwork than normal. While urgent care centers cannot facilitate advanced imaging, many do have x-ray machines on site. Because most patients are seen as walk-ins there is less wait time involved in your visit.
Does Insurance Cover Urgent Care Visits?
Urgent care visits are usually covered by insurance. Check with your insurance provider to find out if the urgent care near you is in network. Check your local urgent care and see if they accept your insurance as payment.
Another benefit of urgent care is lower out of pocket expenses. In the event your insurance does not cover your urgent care visit, payment options are available. The average cost of an urgent care visit is between $100 and $150. This is hundreds of dollars less than the average ER visit.
Best Ways to Find Urgent Care Centers Near You
There are multiple ways to locate an urgent care center near you. Online searches bring quick results. Websites such as Solvhealth.com have search engines specifically dedicated to finding the best medical care in your area. Yelp provides patient reviews, which helps you choose between urgent cares in your area based on patient satisfaction.
If you are in a situation or location where Wi-Fi or a Wi-Fi enabled device is unavailable, there are still multiple other options. It is possible your doctor’s office knows the location of a qualified urgent care center in your area. Hospitals also have information desks. A good portion of ER patients are treated just as well in urgent care centers and it is possible the hospital information desk can provide you with an urgent care phone number or direct you to someone else who can. There is also word of mouth. Reaching out to area churches or even the local police non-emergency line can help you find an urgent care center near you.