Urgent care centers have begun to pop up all over the nation, aiding in a more comprehensive healthcare system.
However, since urgent care centers are a relatively new concept, many people are left with questions about how to utilize their services.
Most people are familiar with the way traditional doctor’s offices require an appointment to be made in advance and wonder if this same principle applies to urgent care or if they can simply walk in.
One of the things that set urgent care centers apart from more traditional family medicine practices is that you can walk in without an appointment.
Although, many urgent care centers do allow patients to schedule appointments if they prefer.
Continue reading to learn more about urgent care centers and why so many people love to utilize these facilities for their healthcare needs!
What Are Urgent Care Centers?
Urgent care centers are medical clinics that provide immediate treatment for minor injuries and illnesses. These centers are typically located near shopping malls, schools, and other public spaces where there will be plenty of foot traffic.
The staff at urgent care centers are trained to treat common ailments such as cuts, scrapes, sprains, burns, and even broken bones.
They also offer flu shots and vaccinations, as well as basic lab work and x-rays. Urgent care centers may also provide prescription medications to treat the ailment you came in about.
Although, they typically do not dispense routine medication that you acquire from your family practitioner.
What Should I Take to The Center with Me?
Anytime you go to an urgent care facility, consider that it is not your regular doctor’s office, and they will not have the same medical records at their disposal.
Thus, in order to speed up your appointment, be sure you bring your photo ID, insurance cards, medication lists, co-pays, and any other pertinent health information with you.
Additionally, if the center you choose does not accept your insurance, be sure to arrive prepared with a form of payment for the services you are receiving.
Why Should I Use an Urgent Care Center Instead of a Traditional Family Medicine Practice?
The main reason why people use urgent care centers instead of going to their regular doctor’s office is that it’s much easier to get into one than it is to make an appointment.
When you go to a regular Dr. office, you must first call them and then wait on hold while they try to find a time for you to come in. This process usually takes anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour depending on the day of the week and what time of day you call.
Some offices may even require that you leave a voice message and then wait until a member of the medical staff returns your call, further increasing the time you must wait to be seen.
Not to mention, if you happen to miss the return call, you will have to start the process all over again. If you don’t have a lot of time to spare, urgent care can often be a better alternative, since you can simply walk in without an appointment.
Another reason why people choose urgent care centers is that they offer a wide range of treatments and diagnostic tests all at one location.
Whereas, when you visit the family doctor, you will then be referred for diagnostic services, making the process of diagnosis more time-consuming and frustrating.
Furthermore, people often visit urgent care centers just to receive a flu shot and can quickly get in and out.
This is often preferable over visiting the family doctor as you will still need to make an appointment, just to get a quick jab and be on your way. Simply put, the convenience of urgent care centers makes them the superior choice in these situations.
In the same vein, urgent care centers are a convenient choice for those who find themselves ill in the evening or on the weekend, due to their extended hours.
For example, if you need to be tested for the flu or develop a concerning rash, on Friday evening or Saturday, you can walk into urgent care and be seen promptly.
In years past, your only choice would’ve been to go to the ER or wait until Monday morning to be seen by your family practitioner.
Being able to see a doctor when you need to, speeds up your recovery time as you aren’t stuck waiting hours at the ER or feeling miserable until after the weekend.
Simply put, if you are looking for a convenient option for receiving medical attention, urgent care centers are definitely worth checking out.
By utilizing these facilities, you can save yourself a great deal of time and frustration. In addition, you can rest assured knowing that you are getting great care when you need it most.
Are There Times I Should Avoid Urgent Care?
While urgent care is a great option for routine illnesses and injuries, it should not replace your family doctor entirely, but should instead work in conjunction with your family practitioner.
For example, if you find yourself sick on the weekend, it could be helpful to be seen that day at urgent care, instead of waiting until Monday to be seen by your family doctor.
However, if you regularly manage a chronic condition like diabetes or need a yearly physical, it is better to schedule an appointment with your family practitioner.
Additionally, in the event of a legitimate emergency, you should not waste your time going to urgent care but should immediately head to the nearest emergency room or call 911.
While urgent care centers are able to run many diagnostic tests and treat a wide range of illnesses and injuries, they simply are not equipped to do emergency surgery or handle life-threatening conditions.
So, while urgent care centers have their place in healthcare, they are never meant to replace emergency rooms or family practitioners.
To conclude, if you’ve never considered going to urgent care before, don’t miss another opportunity to get the care you need when you need it.
Never put off being seen again because it’s the weekend and you don’t want to sit for hours at the ER for a simple sinus infection.
Instead add urgent care centers into your options for care, in addition to your family doctor and the emergency room when necessary!
About The Author:
Mr. Cerullo is a native New Yorker transplanted to Colorado in 1996. He received a Bachelors in Biology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, N.Y.) and Masters in Health Sciences from George Washington University (Washington D.C..). Anthony is a National Health Service Corps Scholar, moving to Colorado to finish his scholarship obligation. This obligation was for two years serving in a health professional shortage area. He completed his obligation in 1999 and since then has been dedicated to family practice and trauma medicine in the rural communities surrounding Idaho Springs, and the last few years in the Southwest Denver region. He enjoys most areas of medicine including geriatric, internal medicine, sports medicine, urgent care, trauma, and annual physicals.