It is 4:00 pm on a Saturday and you are sick as a dog. You know you cannot wait until your doctor’s office opens on Monday morning but do not think you really need an emergency room, what do you do? You are in luck. There are urgent care centers all over the country that exist to help people just like you who are sick or injured but are not experiencing a true medical emergency.
- You have a simple bone fracture. Nearly 80% of all walk in clinics around the country treat simple broken bones. If you have broken a bone, that does not penetrate the skin, you can seek out care in an urgent care clinic.
- You have sprained something. Sprains are very common injuries. Some experts say that approximately 25,000 people in the United States sprain their ankles each day. All of these people can be treated by doctors in urgent care centers around the country.
- You have a bad upper respiratory condition. By far, the most common problem that is treated in urgent care centers today is an upper respiratory condition. These can make you miserable but generally do not require hospitalization to treat.
- You have a bad rash. It is icky, it is itchy and you cannot wait for it to go away. You do not need an emergency room experience for this but want it gone. The medical professionals at urgent care centers can help you with this.
- You have a stomach bug. There are times when these need to be treated in a hospital emergency room but other times, you can get medications and help for that stomach virus or food poisoning.
- Your child has an ear infection. They are painful and can cause a fever and can be treated at an urgent care center.
- You have any injury or illness that will never result in a hospital stay. If you are torn between going to the emergency room or an urgent care center, ask yourself, “are people ever hospitalized for this?” If the answer is, “No.” you should check out a local urgent care center.
Getting treatment at the emergency room is the most expensive care around. Sometimes, it is absolutely needed. If you have chest pain, have suffered from a head injury, think you might have had a stroke or have bleeding that you cannot stop, the emergency room physicians are the people you need to see. If you do show up at an urgent care center, you will be evaluated by the medical staff there. They will tell you if your condition or injury is one they can treat or something that warrants a trip to the hospital emergency room.
Most urgent care clinics are open seven days a week. Some estimates have the number of urgent care centers that are open Sunday through Sunday at 85% or more. This is one reason that the Urgent Care Association of America estimates that three million people visit them every week. If you seek out your health care at an urgent care center, you will spend a lot less time than if you go to the emergency room. Many people are in and out of urgent care centers in less than a hour. Often when you go to the emergency room, the wait time to be seen by a doctor is longer than an hour.
Another drawback to going to the emergency room for care is that it is a scary experience. This is a big deal for adults who may be stressed out by not feeling well or being in pain and can be really upsetting for children who are not sure what is going on. If you are in an emergency room that sees a lot of trauma, you have to wait among extremely sick or badly injured people. Your turn in line is determined by who else is being seen at the same time so you have to compete with people arriving via ambulances, for example. Your wait time can be a stressful experience for even the most hardened person. You can avoid all of that by going to an urgent care clinic for your after hours medical needs.