Accidents don’t tend to care what time of day (or night) they happen. So what are you to do if you find yourself with an illness or injury and your doctor’s office isn’t open? This is where urgent care comes in — and if it’s a life-threatening illness or injury, the emergency room. Some urgent care centers even share a roof with an emergency room, so if you’re not sure whether your medical condition is life-threatening, you don’t have to make that call in the heat of the moment. These types of hybrid models want to offer you convenient care and get your medical needs seen to, no matter the day or hour. Some urgent care centers also offer a family medicine division, where you can get physicals, check-ups, and immunizations or vaccinations as needed.
Tell Me About Urgent Care
Urgent care helps to fill a healthcare gap that’s only expected to increase in years to come. By 2025, the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts that the nation will be short over 130,000 physicians. Furthering that, according to a team of researchers, the United States will need over 50,000 new primary care physicians by 2025 in order to adequately service all the healthcare needs that our country will face. Urgent care and walk-in clinics might be the answer to some of that need.
Right now, there are a little over 9,000 walk-in urgent care centers that stand alone in the United States and anywhere from 50-100 new clinics open their doors annually. Around 20,000 physicians actively practice urgent care medicine and that number is only increasing.
Urgent care offers skillful convenient and affordable care for everything from minor illnesses to skin rashes to UTI’s. Around half of urgent care centers are owned by a physician or a group of them, who want to provide something to the community around them, from family medicine to treating broken bones.
Urgent Care Versus the Emergency Room?
You may also know that emergency rooms are notoriously overcrowded, with long wait times. Part of this is because people head to the emergency rooms for non-life-threatening emergencies. They know it needs medical attention, but don’t realize there are other outlets for medical care off-hours other than just the ER.
One such outlet is urgent care. If you have a medical condition that can’t wait 24 hours, or until you can see your primary physician, but isn’t life-threatening, visiting urgent care is advised. Persistent headaches, high fevers, minor burns or back pain, and skin rashes are examples of ailments that can all be treated at urgent care.
However, chest pain, other symptoms of stroke or heart attack, severe burns, lacerations, or wounds, high fevers in infants, or vaginal bleeding during pregnancy should all be red flags to head directly to the emergency room. These are true emergencies that can’t wait.
Being able to tell the difference between an urgent medical condition and one that’s potentially fatal is important, and sometimes, in the heat of the moment, impossible. This is where hybrid centers can be so useful.
What’s So Great About Urgent Care?
Urgent care is versatile, spanning family medicine and minor emergency work. It’s also significantly less expensive to visit urgent care versus going to the emergency room. A case that could be handled in urgent care that instead goes to the ER will cost an average of $2,039, whereas if it had been handled in urgent care, the cost would have been about $226.
Urgent care also offers flexible and extended hours — around 97% are open seven days a week and many operate during weekends and have early morning or longer night hours. Patients can also expect a shorter wait time. Around 60% of all urgent care centers can boast a wait time of 15 minutes or less until patients see a physician or a mid-level provider.
Whether you need family medicine or care for minor injuries and illnesses, don’t discount the services that urgent care can provide. They provide quality service at an affordable cost — and you can count on cutting down the fidgeting time in the waiting room!