Urgent Care Centers What to Know

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Imagine this. You’re sick. Maybe you have a broken bone or a laceration. Maybe you’re chronic condition is flaring up. Your blood sugar is either really high or it’s dropped. You call your doctor. His or her office is closed. You don’t want to go to the hospital. You have a high deductible for your insurance. Your options are limited.

What do you do?

Early in the 1980’s, a new form of treatment was created. It is called the urgent care center. The urgent care center operates between the emergency room and the primary care physician. Both are good forms of treatment. One handles small cases, the other the largest cases. Both have varying levels of equipment. The urgent care center bridges both.

What does the urgent care center do? It’s simple. Starting with these statistics:

  • An estimated 3 million patients visit urgent care centers each week, according to the Urgent Care Association of America.
  • Roughly 60% of all urgent care centers have a wait time of less than 15 minutes to see a physician or mid-level provider, and 65% have a physician on-site at all times.

Urgent care centers are popular, seeing millions of patients each week. They thrive because they have a system down that enables patients to get help. And get that help cheaply, quickly, and efficiently. Urgent care centers are open longer hours than the primary care physician’s office. They have superior diagnostic equipment.

The average urgent care center visit costs a little less than $200, and that is without insurance. Some urgent care center visits are a mere $15, or $35. While this depends on the type of insurance, roundly they are considered to be cheaper than the emergency room. Visits there cost in the high hundreds or thousands of dollars.

What are some of the injuries and ailments urgent care centers treat? The list is too long for this article but some statistics will suffice. All of these injuries and ailments are treated at urgent care centers, generally by doctors or mid-level providers.

  • 25,000 Americans suffer from an ankle sprain each day.
  • Four out of five urgent care centers provide fracture care.
  • Dizziness is the second most common complaint heard in doctor’s offices, and will occur in 70% of the nation’s population at sometime in their lives.
  • Every year, Americans get approximately 1 billion colds.

Urgent care centers provide care for both adults and children. Adult patients are possibly the most numerous, but plenty of parents take their children to urgent care centers. It’s hard not to. A child’s cough gets serious in the middle of the night. Their cold escalates. They have a fever that isn’t going down.

While these ailments might not cause an adult to go to the urgent care center, it is likely that an adult would take a child to get care, even if the cost is slightly more expensive than a primary care physician. An urgent care center can be called a “pedi center” when it refers to children. “Pedi” is short for “pediatric.”

There are many questions. What to go to urgent care for? When to go to urgent care? When to use urgent care? Where is urgent care near me?

These are all valid questions. While they can be taken one by one, it is likely possible to look on the urgent care center’s website (when Googled) for information about treated conditions and hours. They likely can handle a great deal of cases. Studies have shown that a sizable percentage of ER cases could have been treated in urgent care settings.

The pedi center is helpful for children to get the aid they need. The pedi center has strong diagnostic equipment able to detect even the smallest problem. The pedi center generally has a pediatric doctor on staff or even a mid-level provider. A doctor at a pedi center can prescribe medicine for a child to get well.

Urgent care bridges the gap between the primary care physician and the emergency room. It has a slightly higher cost than the primary care physician and much less cost than the emergency room. It has better diagnostic equipment than the PCP but less than the emergency room. It is helpful for treating many conditions.

When in doubt, ask questions first. But always know it is an option.

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