Urgent care centers were a relatively unknown concept less than a decade ago, but have grown to be a major staple in our medical system today. According to the Urgent Care Association of America, there are over 9,000 urgent care units in the United States. To put that in perspective, there are only 1,799 Target stores in our country; there are over four urgent care health clinics for every one Target store. Even within the medical infrastructure, there are only 5,025 emergency clinics, not much more than half of the number of urgent care clinics.
Bridging the Gap
Urgent care clinics offer services that fill the void between what your regular doctor can provide and having to going to the emergency clinic. Unlike a primary health physician, urgent care clinics take patients with no appointment at all, and generally during times that your doctors is unavailable. In contrast to an emergency clinic, more than a half of urgent care clinics can see a patient within 15 minutes, and can usually get them necessary treatment in less than an hour. On average, the bill for the exact same diagnoses at an urgent care will cost $228 to $583 less than that of an emergency clinic. Many insurance companies treat urgent care visits like regular physician’s visits rather than an emergency room visit, requiring a much lower copay.
An urgent care differs from a doctor’s office in a number of ways. Many urgent care clinics are open seven days a week, and usually in hours that extend before and after a normal doctor’s office is available. When non-emergency medical treatment is required immediately, an urgent care can usually accommodate the patient better than a doctors office.
What many patients don’t realize, is an urgent care can usually offer a number of services that a primary health physician does not offer, at much greater convenience and less expense than an emergency clinic:
- Over 93% of urgent care clinics have lab testing onsite. This means any necessary blood work and medical testing can be conducted in a single visit and a diagnoses can be offered immediately. Many primary care physicians do not have access to lab services onsite and require patients to take a trip to a separate lab and then follow-up with results later.
- Nearly 81% of urgent care clinics can provide x-ray services to patients with potential broken bones, and then set the fracture and apply a splint or cast in a single visit. This service usually is not offered in a physician’s office and often requires long wait times at an emergency room.
- About 70% of urgent cares clinics can provide intravenous (IV) fluids to dehydrated patients. Dehydration is one of the most common urgent medical needs. A physician is rarely able to provide IVs, and the emergency room often charges more for the exact same IV administered at urgent care.
- Almost half of urgent cares can provide common medications onsite, so that you can get the antibiotics, steroids, breathing treatments, and so on that you need without having to go to a pharmacist.
Have you visited an urgent care recently? What made you opt for urgent care and were you satisfied with your care? Please share your experience with us below.