For illnesses and injuries that are not life-threatening, urgent care centers are a good choice for medical treatment. Walk in urgent care clinics offer a lower cost alternative to a visit to the emergency room (ER). Anyone who’s been to an ER is not keen to repeat the experience. The long wait, the crowded atmosphere, and finally the staggering bill. For most illnesses and injuries, and other medical services like flu shots and sports physicals, walk in clinics are an increasingly popular choice. In the past five to ten years, the number of walk in clinics has grown, and their popularity is expected to increase.
What to expect at the urgent care center
Urgent care centers combine some features of general practice, family practice and the emergency room. They can treat most common illnesses and injuries. They are open seven days a week and have extended hours in the mornings and evenings, so that patients can avail of the walk in services before and after work.
You will not need an appointment to get treatment at an urgent care center. And you won’t face the hours of waiting that most people associate with a visit to the emergency room. Studies have found that in 69% of walk in clinics, patients waited less than 20 minutes for treatment. At 28% of the locations surveyed, patients had wait times ranging from 21 and 40 minutes, and only 3% of the locations required patients to wait more than 40 minutes for treatment.
Urgent care centers provide most non-emergency medical services
More than 95% of all urgent care clinics have physicians on their staff. The highly qualified staff of medical professionals and technicians also receive training in emergency care. From X-rays to onsite diagnostics, walk in clinics provide all medical services needed for most conditions. To avoid a trip to the hospital or emergency room, as many as 70% or seven out of ten urgent care centers can provide patients intravenous fluids if needed.
Almost half or 48.6% also provide prescription pharmaceuticals in the doctors’ office itself saving an extra trip to the pharmacy. These medications are specially pre-packaged for “point-of-care” dispensing, and patients can receive the full course of treatment in doctor’s office itself.
A lower cost alternative to the emergency room
Emergency rooms with their long wait times and crowded facilities have yet another disadvantage, which most people discover when they receive the bills. Treatment in the emergency room costs much more than in a regular medical setting. In this respect, too, an urgent care visit is a better choice than going to the emergency department. A visit to the urgent care costs $228 to $583 less than going to the emergency room for the same diagnosis.
Urgent care clinics are increasingly popular
Because they offer convenient, lower cost healthcare, urgent care centers are becoming increasingly popular and their numbers are growing across the country. The Urgent Care Association of America reports that they are now about 9,000 centers in the U.S. These are part of a growing trend.
Most urgent care centers, or about 61% of the total number, have been open for more than five years. Around 40% have been open for nine years or more. On average, 342 patients visit an urgent care center each week. There’s sure to be an urgent care center near you.
While urgent care clinics can handle most common medical situations, they are not emergency rooms. If you or someone around you is experience a life-threatening condition due to illness or injury, it is important to go the emergency room or to call an ambulance.