Urgent care clinics are walk-in medical facilities that treat a wide variety of illnesses and injuries. They are, in many ways, preferable to a hospital emergency room, except for the most acute life or death situations. The most common cases treated at urgent care facilities are minor broken bones, burns, or illnesses.
The advantages of urgent care are primarily that of convenience. For example, if your child were suddenly ill, and your pediatrician had no available appointments that day, you could receive walk-in urgent care for kids at a local facility. While you could try waiting in your pediatrician?s office for an open-appointment, you are likely to wait longer. Approximately 60 percent of urgent care centers have a wait time of less than 15 minutes, and about 80 percent of all urgent care visits take less than an hour from the time of sign-in. Even if you double that, it?s still a shorter wait than either the average emergency room visit or waiting at your own physician?s office when you don?t have an appointment.
Another one of the advantages of urgent care centers is the hours of operation. Most physician?s offices operate on business hours; urgent care centers have flexible hours. A recent survey showed that 66 percent of the responding care facilities reported opening before 9:00 am during the week, and staying open until at least 7:00 pm. They reported extended hours on weekends as well, with 40 percent of participating centers staying open until 9:00 pm on several nights each week.
A third benefit of urgent care centers is fast diagnosis. Most clinics have on-site X-rays and lab testing for basic illnesses, so you get answers quickly and can begin treatment as soon as possible. Some urgent care facilities are also able to fill or refill prescriptions.
Although the advantages of urgent care are primarily related to convenience, in many cases there are also financial benefits. Urgent care services are reasonably priced, and comparable to visiting a doctor?s office. They are much less expensive than a visit to the ER, and in some situations, your co-pay may also be lower than if you visit the hospital emergency room.
It?s important to reiterate that urgent care facilities are not equipped to handle life-threatening emergencies such as heart attacks, unconsciousness or head injury, severe bleeding, stroke, or other traumatic injuries. For these situations, go directly to the nearest hospital emergency room, preferably via ambulance.
Your local urgent care is appropriate for situations that are urgent but not life-threatening. Headaches, cold and flu like symptoms, minor burns, back pain, low-level infections, strains and sprains, and other everyday health issues are all appropriate for an urgent care visit.
Overall, the advantages of urgent care are designed to provide excellent, immediate health care in a convenient and cost-effective way. Most urgent care facilities are owned and operated by doctors and other health professionals who have a vested interested in your health and well-being. Find urgent care near you so that when you need it, you know where to go.