Health and Fitness Tips

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It happens to the best of us — that nagging cold you can’t quite get over, a cut that is a bit too big for a Band-Aid, or some other medical issue that isn’t quite enough to merit a trip to the emergency room, but is too big an issue for your doctor’s office to handle. Most of us have to make an appointment to see our primary care provider, and there are some problems that need to be seen as quickly as possible. For that matter, many of us don’t want to sit in our doctor’s office, spending half the day waiting to be seen. Waiting is a problem at the emergency room, too. Unless your problem is a high priority emergency, you’ll probably have to wait to be seen, and be presented with a huge bill when you’re done. This has many people considering urgent care facilities — but what is urgent care in the first place? What makes it different from the emergency room or the doctor’s office, and do those differences equal a shift in the level of care provided? Below, we’ll answer the question of “what is urgent care?” as well as debunk some of the preconceived notions surrounding urgent care services. Urgent care isn’t something you should use as a last resort — in many cases, it should be your first option.

What Is Urgent Care?

So, what is urgent care really? In its simplest form, urgent care facilities provide medical care given by professionals in a manner as quick, effective, and cheap as possible. Some services given by urgent care centers are free of charge, depending on the facility and the care provided. Urgent care facilities often employ the same doctors who work at doctor’s offices and hospitals locally — in fact, 50% of urgent care centers are owned by a physician or group of physicians. Urgent care centers, as we’ll discuss below, provide a variety of different services. While they won’t be able to treat high trauma emergencies at the same level as the emergency room, they are able to treat many problems that are too urgent or problematic for doctor’s offices. A great advantage of urgent care is the timeliness of the care too — about 60% of all urgent care facilities give patients a wait time of 15 minutes or less to see a mid-level care provider, 65% have at least one physician on-site at all times. Of course, if your emergency is too severe for an urgent care center, they’ll refer you to a hospital — but often, urgent care centers are located near or even connected to emergency rooms.

What Kind Of Care Do Urgent Care Centers Provide?

Say you find yourself or someone you love with what you suspect is a fracture — can you visit an urgent care center for this issue? The answer is yes, in many cases. An estimated 80% of urgent care centers provide fracture care. While it’s true that some fractures require an emergency room visit, some are fairly simple to treat and can be handled at an urgent care center. What about when you’re dehydrated and need fluids? Luckily, seven out of 10 urgent care centers provide intravenous fluids. Urgent care centers can also run certain tests when necessary, including STI tests, and provide stitches when necessary. Often, you can have vaccinations done at an urgent care center, and dealing with a respiratory infection or the like shouldn’t be an issue at urgent care centers.

Can I Get A Prescription At An Urgent Care Center?

While this varies from place to place, many urgent care centers can provide prescriptions. It’s believed that about 40% of urgent care centers use electronic prescription ordering systems — and even more use computer systems for viewing lab results and images, billing, and much more. Even if they don’t use electronic prescription ordering services, many facilities don’t find prescriptions to be a problem. Just be honest about your symptoms, and your care provider will try to help find a solution. An urgent care center really isn’t that different from what you’d find at your doctor’s office!