We’ve all been there. It’s 6:00 PM on a Friday afternoon and your child suddenly develops symptoms of an ear infection. They’re crying and miserable; you know that you don’t want to wait until you can get them in to their pediatrician on Monday morning. You could get the antibiotics you know they need to get better at an emergency room, but you know what it entails: sitting in the waiting room for four or five hours, possibly exposing them to more serious contagious illnesses, and a hefty medical bill as a parting gift. This is what we call the “rock and a hard place” scenario.
Thankfully, in recent years, the prominence of urgent medical care clinics have filled the void to take care of these exact situations. When you need medical care that is not an emergency, but can’t wait until your primary care doctors can fit you in, visiting an urgent medical care center is your best bet. Here is what you need to know about urgent medical care clinics:
- Like your regular doctor, but not really.
By definition, urgent care facilities are intended for treating medical issues that should be attended to within 24 hours, such as our ear infection example. However, in many cases, you can get the exact care from an urgent medical care facility that you can get from your own doctor. When all you need is a quick prescription, when you just need a standard blood draw for a lab test, when you just need a medical professional to take a look at you, you can get the service you need from an urgent care or your own medical doctor. This is what we call a “six of one, half dozen of another” scenario.
However, urgent cares offer the benefit of walk in service. You might not be able to get in to see your regular medical provider for a couple days, yet an urgent care can see you on the spot, as soon as you need it. Additionally, urgent care clinics can accommodate you around your own schedule, when the ideal time frame for you to receive medical attention is nights or weekends.
- Getting care your regular doctor doesn’t offer.
Many times, a regular doctor is a stepping stone on the journey to getting the care you need. You see your doctor, who sends orders to a lab, and then you go there to get the medical tests you need. You see your doctor, who sends a prescription to a pharmacy, and then you go there to get the medication you need. You see your doctor, who refers you to a specialist, and then you go there to get the medical attention you need.
Meanwhile, an urgent care can often serve as a one-stop-shop for medical care. If you just need to give a blood sample to get the diagnosis you already know you have, most urgent care units have their own lab in-house. When you just need a script for antibiotics to fix you up, some urgent care units can dispense common medications onsite, to save you a trip to the pharmacy. If you need a specialized medical service that your regular doctor doesn’t offer, such as IV fluids, or fracture care, an urgent care might do the trick.
- Saving yourself a trip to the emergency room.
When the medical care you need is life threatening, ALWAYS go to the emergency room first. The emergency room is designed to administer life saving measures quickly and effectively. However, when the medical need is not a life threatening emergency, going to urgent care instead of emergency room is often your best course of action.
The medical care you receive at the ER involves hospital surcharges, and so getting the exact treatment at an urgent care is often a fraction of the cost. Also, ERs prioritize patients based on who needs care first, so when your visit is not an emergency, you’ll find yourself waiting around to be seen for a lot longer than you would at an urgent care.
To Sum it Up…
When your standard medical need can wait until Monday, see your doctor. When your condition is life threatening, visit the ER. Everything in between can be treated at Urgent Care.