High blood pressure. Broken bones. Lacerations. Sprain ankles. Influenza. Bronchitis. Strep throat. High cholesterol. Diabetes flare ups. Headaches. Migraines. Heart rhythm issues. Head injuries. Dizziness. Fainting. Shortness of breath. These are some of the conditions treated by a growing form of healthcare. It’s called the urgent care center.
Urgent care centers offer numerous benefits to patients that are stuck between the primary care physician and the emergency room. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of urgent care centers around the country and approximately 20,000 physicians who practice Urgent Care Medicine today.
Urgent care centers have the following characteristics: Most (85%) are open seven days per week; most have a physician in-house at all times, with some even having a mid-level provider available; most are open early, sometimes at 7am, and stay open late, often till 7pm; most have sophisticated imaging equipment such as x-ray systems.
Urgent care centers see the following conditions the most:
- An upper respiratory infection
- Ankle sprains
- And more
Some statistics bear this out. Reports estimate that 25,000 Americans suffer an ankle sprain each day. On average, between 5% and 20% of Americans come down with the flu each year. Urinary tract infections account for around 8.1 million visits to doctors each year. And about 85% of Americans are allergic to poison ivy.
Urgent care can be seen as the bridge between primary care physicians and the emergency room. Urgent care centers have many of the positive qualities of emergency rooms, with walk in possibility (meaning the patient does not have to have an appointment) and sophisticated imaging equipment. It also has positive attributes of primary care.
Primary care physicians generally see people according to appointments. Those appointments are not often same-day appointments. A primary care physician’s schedules gets booked up pretty quickly. Same day appointments are not always possible. A primary care physician is good to go to if there is a problem but the need to treat it isn’t immediate.
Urgent care has several advantages over primary care. Urgent care centers see patients on a walk-in basis and have longer hours than a primary care physician’s office generally has. Urgent care also has more sophisticated equipment and mid-level providers that may be more skilled at diagnosing and treating than a primary care physician.
Emergency rooms have positive health benefits for many. Patients are seen on a walk-in basis and are treated according to triage. That means the patient in the worst condition is seen first. Emergency rooms are likely to have the best equipment in the area, along with likely the best doctors.
However, emergency rooms are costly. On average, an emergency room bill will run into the high hundreds, where some bills can actually reach into the thousands, depending on what type of tests are done, whether there is a need for overnight stays, and how much treatment is required.
Urgent care is much less costly than that, with copays as low as $35 and bills generally not running into the hundreds, even without insurance. It stands to reason that urgent care centers would be a better fit if the patient is not in life-threatening condition and they have an immediate need that a primary care physician can’t get to that day.
Statistics have also shown that the majority of cases seen in the emergency room could actually have been treated in an urgent care center or another less intensive form of diagnosis and treatment. And more Americans have been using the emergency room as a safety net, as late night visits have been appearing more frequently.
Urgent care centers have been growing across the country as more and more patients find the convenience and level of care within urgent care centers beats going to the primary care physician and the emergency room. With a mid-level provider and doctor almost always available, the care in the case of urgent care centers is beneficial for many.
Walk in urgent care is another term used to describe urgent care. Walk in urgent care highlights one of the most important aspects of urgent care in that a patient can walk in without an appointment. A walk in urgent care facility may also be described as an urgent care clinic and walk in clinic and a medical care clinic.
Walk in urgent care is part of the continuum of care.