It is late in the day or on a weekend. You fell on the tennis court and may have sprained your ankle. You do not want to wait until Monday to go for medical treatment but do not want to go to the emergency room, what do you do? Luckily, you can see someone about your injury. Common sports injuries can be treated at a nearby urgent medical center. Urgent care clinics offer many of the same services as are offered in hospital emergency rooms.
Benefits of Going to an Urgent Medical Center:
- It is more convenient than the emergeny department. Most walk in clinics are open after 6:00 pm and on the weekends. While most family medicine practices are not open late, about 70% of primary care doctors do not keep their offices open after normal business hours. Many urgent medical centers allow patients to preregister for services, which makes the entire process easier and more convenient.
- It takes a lot less time to be treated. No matter what emergency room you pick, you know there will be a long wait time. This is because of the sheer volume of people who seek treatment at hospital emergency departments. If you are being treated for a minor injury, you have to wait until the people who have suffered a true medical emergency are seen. In urgent care centers, your wait time is much shorter.The Urgent Care Association of America conduc ted a survey that found nearly 60% of patients who seek out care at a walk in clinic are seen within less than 15 minutes. For the vast majority of patients, the total time spent in an urgent care medical center is less than one hour.
- It is much cheaper. It is not a secret that emergency room medical care is the most expensive kind. The average visit to an emergency department costs about $1,500. The same treatment at an urgent care medical clinic costs around $150. According to the Rand Corporation, nearly 20% of all emergency room patients could be treated at an urgent care facility. If those people had sought their care at a walk in clinic, it would save the United States economy about $4.4 billion each year. Urgent care clinics take health insurance. The copay at an urgent care clinic is often much lower.
- The experience is less stressful. When you are in the emergency room, the experience can be very stressful. The hospital is receiving ambulances and dealing with life threatening injuries and illnesses. Urgent care facilities are not. Spending time in the emergency department can be scary. Urgent care clinics are much more relaxed.
- You can get travel medications at an urgent care clinic. If you are planning a trip to an exotic location, you can get the medicine and vaccinations you need at an urgent care medical center. If you need a Yellow Fever shot and medication to prevent malaria, you can get those at the walk in clinic. These are things you may not be able to get at a primary care doctor’s office nor can you get them at the emergency room. Call ahead and see if the clinic has the vaccination you need and what insurance they take. Some plans will cover travel medicine and some do not. Check with your insurance provider if you have questions. Some medications have more than one use and may be covered. Doxycycline, for example, can be used to prevent malaria but also for other purposes and is often covered by insurance.
- Some urgent care clinics have pharmacies. Often when you go to the emergency room, you leave with prescriptions that need filling. That means you have to stop off on your way home. Many urgent care medical facilities have pharmacies and can get you the medication your doctor prescribes.
There are times when you really do need to go to the emergency room. If you are sick or injured and do not know where you should go for medical care, the best thing you can do is contact your primary care doctor.