Proper treatment is crucial when trying to recover from a health condition or injury. Certain health conditions and injuries require immediate treatments because leaving these unresolved for long periods can only worsen the patient’s conditions. In some cases, leaving these problems unresolved can lessen the patient’s chances of qualifying for treatments or even recovering. Thankfully, there are multiple options today when it comes to accessing treatment. Among these are urgent care centers.
Urgent care is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to an emergency room (ER). There are several thousands of such centers across the United States. While it may seem more preferable to many people, it is vital to know when urgent care is needed for a condition to be resolved.
What is Urgent Care?
Urgent care refers to a type of walk-in clinic that specializes in dealing with minor health emergencies. It can also be described as medical care that is provided for conditions or injuries that require immediate attention.
With urgent care centers, you have an opportunity to get medical care for certain emergencies when the office of your primary care doctor is closed. They provide help for conditions that are serious but not life-threatening.
Some of the common reasons or symptoms that make people seek urgent care are:
- Minor or moderate accidents
- Fever with no rash
- Sprains and strains
- Shortness of breath
- Non-severe flu-like symptoms
- Minor fractures
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
- Condition diagnosis
More people are turning to urgent care centers as alternatives to emergency rooms. One of the reasons for this is that hospitals and emergency rooms are constantly full or understaffed. Because of this, it takes a longer time to get medical care at the latter. Seeking medical services from an urgent care facility will save you time and energy from going through long lines.
The Urgent Care Association of America stated that there were roughly 9,000 urgent care centers in the U.S. as of 2013. Since it is now growing by demand, it won’t be wrong to expect that the number would have increased further.
Conditions Requiring Urgent Care
From the foregoing, you should have a better idea of the kinds of health problems urgent care facilities help with. But how exactly do you know that you should seek immediate help for a health condition?
The following are some considerations that can identify that you need urgent care:
Lack of improvement – If you have been feeling unwell and you are not getting better despite all you have done, that right there is a sign that you should get instant medical attention. If you don’t take steps to seek help urgently, your condition could worsen in such a case. Not seeing any improvement to your health problem can mean that you’re taking inappropriate medication.
Intense discomfort – Your health condition or symptoms can become so worse that things become so unbearable. When that happens, pay attention to your body and get urgent care without further delay. Experiencing intense discomfort is a cause for concern because aside from being a symptom of certain health conditions, this can also adversely affect your productivity during the day.
A painful injury that is not life-threatening – Many people who pay visits to urgent care facilities do so because of injuries. If you become injured and you are fearful about waiting until the next day before getting help, you should visit urgent care. This is especially appropriate if your injury isn’t very severe or life-threatening.
Why Urgent Care May Be Preferable to ER
Considering the nature of conditions that urgent care attends to, you might notice similarities with those taking people to ERs. A question that may come then is: why would I want to go to urgent care?
Let’s consider a few of those reasons.
Shorter wait times
In recent times, emergency rooms are seeing more and more people. As in the case of hospitals, they are being pushed to their maximum limits. With the coronavirus now in the picture, ERs should be receiving even more patients. Some hospitals would even refuse to admit patients, and would only cater to individuals who are showing symptoms of coronavirus. This status quo will make it hard for anyone to have themselves checked, especially if they need urgent care.
The typical wait time for emergency rooms was already more than two hours before the pandemic, which is such a long time to wait, especially if you are feeling great discomfort and needed to receive care urgently.
Urgent care facilities usually have significantly shorter wait times. This is a major reason many people are shifting their focus to them. The average wait time before being attended to can be as low as 15 minutes, depending on your location.
Cost consideration is another major reason why more people are taking interest in urgent care. ERs visits cost a lot of money. The high costs aren’t necessarily a deal-breaker if you have a life-threatening condition. But what if your health condition is one that an urgent care facility can help very well with?
According to an estimate, a patient pays more than $1,300, on average, for a visit to the emergency room. Urgent care visits cost only a fraction of that price.
Many patients visiting urgent care pay just about $100. The costs may only increase further when accessing other services beyond basic care, such as diagnostic services. Urgent care is obviously the better choice if you are looking to save money. The affordability of urgent care facilities will also make it easy for anyone to have themselves checked even if they have a shoestring budget.
Your insurer will likely cover your visit to either an ER or an urgent care facility. There might only be exceptions, such as visits to facilities not within a network or that are not necessary.
The important thing to note here is that the type of facility you choose to visit influences your co-pay. You get lower co-pay when you opt for urgent care instead of an ER.
Based on what you have read so far, urgent care might seem like a better deal. Urgent care facilities offer better and cheaper services. It also increases your chances of surviving any health condition or injury. But there are some things you need to know or pay attention to in order to ensure you get proper care in an emergency.
Choose the right urgent care facility
Getting proper medical care is a factor of what urgent care center you choose. Several things can come into play in making your decision, including expertise, costs, and location.
Carry out your research to find a facility that is close and gives you access to well-trained, experienced practitioners round the clock. Be sure that you can get treatment for emergencies at little notice.
Make your doctor’s work easier
Since your urgent care doctor is not likely to be your primary care physician, it helps to provide them with everything that could enable them to get to work at once. There’s less time to sacrifice when you need immediate medical attention.
What this means is that you should go with whatever medical records you have at your disposal. Provide information on all previous conditions and procedures you have had. Bring X-rays and laboratory test results as well as the medications you are on. You may also include your proof of insurance.
When taking a young child to urgent care, you need proof that shows you are a legal guardian or have the permission to act.
Urgent care is not a complete substitute for ER or primary care
We should emphasize that urgent care is ideal for emergencies that are not life-threatening. By referring to it as an alternative to ER, we didn’t mean that urgent care is a perfect substitute to ERs.
And, of course, urgent care doctors can’t take the place of regular doctors. About 2 in 3 patients visiting these facilities also have a primary care doctor. Practitioners at urgent care are best for situations when your doctor’s office is closed and you have a pressing need for medical care.
When Should You Go to an ER?
If what you are experiencing is a matter of life or death, you should not delay heading to the emergency room. Any condition that threatens a body part or your life is a good reason to call 911 at once! ERs are better-equipped to handle major emergencies and could carry out procedures quicker.
Health issues that warrant an immediate visit to an emergency room include:
- Seizures, convulsions, or loss of consciousness
- Fever with a rash
- Severe chest pain or pressure
- Difficulty breathing
- Gunshot or deep-knife wounds
- Sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body
- Garbled speech
- Moderate or severe burns
- Heavy, uncontrolled bleeding
- Heart attack
These are signs that what you may be experiencing is a major emergency. Call for an ambulance immediately since it is not wise to attempt driving yourself to an ER while having these symptoms.
Top-notch urgent care facilities would usually direct or transfer patients having major emergencies to ERs.