Picture this: you’re in serious pain, sirens are wailing, and your credit card is maxing out. You’re headed to the emergency room, and it’s definitely going to cost you. For many serious health concerns, a trip to the ER is unavoidable, especially when the problem is sudden and local doctors are booked up.You might have to accept the big bill along with your only chance to get healthy again.
On your way to the ER, you may have passed an urgent care clinic or two. Sometimes you don’t need complicated procedures or an overnight stay in a hospital. Sometimes you just have the flu, or a bad cut or scrape. In cases like these, you might consider visiting an urgent care clinic.
Today, there are about 20,000 physicians practicing Urgent Care Medicine at an urgent care clinic, and an estimated 3 million patients visit an urgent care clinic each week, according to the Urgent Care Association of America. If you live in a well-populated area, it’s likely that there’s at least one urgent care clinic near you. Most urgent care clinic locations accept walk ins, just like an emergency room, but sometimes appointments at an urgent care clinic might be available for those who’d like to reserve a certain time. Your local urgent care clinic could be a much faster option than the ER, where wait-times can get out of control.
So when exactly might urgent care be your best bet? In 2012, the most common diagnosis in an urgent care clinic was some form of upper respiratory condition, and the most common procedure performed was wound repair. Top doctors and emergency room doctors use the same techniques and medications for simple complaints like flu and bronchitis, and they sterilize and dress wounds according to the same standards that doctors and nurses in an urgent care clinic adhere to. If your health concern is common and easily treated, an urgent care clinic could be just as effective, and probably cheaper and faster.
Many people may be concerned that their local urgent care facility won’t be open when an illness or injury comes up. But 85% of urgent cares operate seven days a week. And often, an urgent care clinic will offer care for injuries some patients might assume to be too serious for urgent care to cover. For example, your local urgent care clinic may be one of the 80% of urgent care centers that provide care for bone fractures.
In summary, an urgent care clinic provides many of the same services as an emergency room, but it may be more convenient and cheaper. Honestly evaluate how serious your health condition may be, and decide whether an urgent care clinic is right for you!