Since the 1970’s, urgent care centers have provided medical care for patients with illnesses and injuries that are not life-threatening, but still warrant immediate attention. Such facilities are typically open for more hours than most physician offices and provide diagnostic testing as well as treatment. While having a primary care physician is important, there are situations when choosing an urgent care facility makes more sense.
Illnesses and injuries have no sense of time. They can happen during regular business hours, at night and on weekends. Before the advent of urgent care centers, medical needs outside of regular office hours meant a trip to the local emergency room. Today, urgent care centers across the nation are open not only during regular business hours, but also on weekends, evenings and in some cases around the clock.
Primary care physicians are often overloaded with patients, which translates into waiting days and sometimes weeks for an appointment. When a serious illness or injury strikes, time is of the essence. Urgent care centers provide walk-in appointments so patients can avoid the wait. Non-life threatening emergency room visits generally take several hours for the patient to be seen. Urgent care patients typically wait a fraction of that time.
Level of Services
Urgent care centers offer a higher level of service than the primary physician provides. Diagnostic tests such as x-rays, ultra sounds and blood work can be completed and processed at the urgent care center. Primary care physicians usually send their patients to labs to have such testing completed. Getting the answer quickly can mean feeling better faster or having injuries discovered more quickly.
Urgent care centers can be the closest choice. In an urgent medical situation such as serious illness or possible broken bones, a nearby facility reduces the amount of time the patient has to travel to be seen. Centers are located in both residential and business areas which means easier access to workers and residents around them.
For the uninsured , urgent care centers offer moderate service levels for less than an emergency room visit costs. The urgent care visit is usually paid for at the time of the visit. One payment covers everything that is done for the patient. Emergency room visits end with a deposit payment request at the hospital, then receiving bills from several entities in varying amounts. When all is said and done, the total can be in the thousands of dollars for an exam and a couple of x-rays. For those who have insurance, urgent care co-pays are usually significantly lower than emergency room co-pays.
Urgent care facilities provide moderate level care in one place for those who cannot wait to see their primary care physician. Illnesses and injuries that are not life-threatening but need immediate attention such as simple fractures, sprains, high fevers and infections are examples of things that an urgent care can treat immediately. The fast service, locations and extended hours make urgent care a viable alternative to the emergency room.