The best place to get medical care is at your primary care doctor’s office. The problem that many people have is that they get sick or hurt themselves at times when their doctor’s office is closed. What can they do then? Many people want to ask the doctors what their options are. Is an emergency room a person’s only option?
The good news for people around most of the United States is that there are other options for heath care after hours. The hospital emergency room is really there for people who have medical problems that are true emergencies. If there is any way that an injury or illness can require hospitalization, you should go to an emergency room to be evaluated. These conditions include, but are not limited to, the following:
Severe chest pain that will not go away. This is particularly true if it goes anywhere or is accompanied by sweating or some other problems.
Any head injury with the loss of consciousness.
Signs of stroke such as slurred speech or drooping face or sudden muscle weakness.
A high fever in infants.
Gun or stab wounds.
Bleeding that will not stop.
Urgent care centers were set up in the 1970s by emergency room doctors who saw a need for convenient medical care after hours and on the weekends. They found a common things people wanted to ask the doctors was what the options were for people who needed health care right away but did not need to be admitted to the hospital.
Since the first clinic opened in the 1970s, tens of thousands have opened around the planet. So many clinics have opened up calling themselves “urgent care clinics” that the Urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA) and the American Academy of Urgent Care Medicine (AAUCM) joined together to develop specific criteria that need to be met before a walk in clinic can label itself an urgent care center. Urgent care centers:
Take walk in patients during normal business hours and have some hours seven days a week.
- Treat a wide array of injuries and illnesses.
- Perform minor procedures.
- Offer some diagnostic services like x-rays.
- Have more than one exam room.
- The medical director needs to be a licensed medical doctor.
There are a lot of illnesses and injuries that can typically treated by walk in clinics:
- Muscle sprains and strains.
- Minor to moderate back pain.
- Vomiting, diarrhea and constipation.
- Upper respiratory infections.
There are a lot of reasons to consider going to an urgent care clinic over an emergency room if you or someone you care about has become sick or hurt at night or on the weekend:
- The wait time is a lot shorter. When you go to the emergency room, you are there with people who have potentially life threatening medical problems. The medical staff at the hospital emergency room try to get to everyone as quickly as possible but they also have to treat the people who have true emergencies first. This means that you can end up waiting hours and hours to be seen. By contrast, most patients at walk in clinics get seen and back out in under and hour.
- Walk in clinics are a lot less stressful. This is very important if you are bringing young children and want to ask the doctors about an injury or illness they are experiencing at night or on the weekend. Emergency rooms can be very scary places with ambulances coming and going, there may be some scary scenes and people are not at their best. Going to an urgent care center is a much more calm experience.
- It is much cheaper to go to an urgent care center. Some of the most expensive kind of care you can receive. Everything is done right away. Many insurance carriers understand how cost effective it is to to have their customers to to get care at urgent care centers so they often set the copays much lower than for any treatment received at a hospital emergency room.
If you are ever not sure where to go to ask the doctors about your situation, if you go to a walk in clinic and you need an emergency room they will send you there for care.