It is Saturday afternoon and you have twisted your knee on the tennis court, you cannot go to the doctor, what do you do? Or, it is 6:00 pm on a Friday night and your child is sick, what do you do? For a long time, the only option for after hours and weekend care was the emergency room. Then in the 1970s some emergency room doctors saw an opportunity to fill a need; the need for unscheduled medical care. They started the first urgent care center. Since then, the industry has grown and today there are nearly 10,000 such centers nationwide. The reason for this is that there are a lot of advantages of urgent care over emergency room care.
- Visits to urgent care centers take a lot less time. The wait in most emergency rooms is lengthy. Usually when you go to the emergency room, you can expect to be there for hours. This is one of the best advantages of urgent care is the shorter wait time. It has been estimated that about 57% of all patients only have to wait 15 minutes to be seen by a medical professional. Approximately 80% of patients say that they are in and out of the urgent medical care centers within an hour or less. This is according to the Urgent Care Association of America.
- Urgent care centers have convenient hours. The vast majority of family doctor’s offices are not open after hours or on the weekend. To be classified as an urgent care center, the facility has to have hours every day of the week. At least 70% of all urgent care centers open by 8:00 am. Some open earlier than that. At least 95% stay open until 7:00 pm or later. This is another of the bog advantages of urgent care.
- You can make an appointment. These centers are called “walk in clinics” for a reason but it is possible to make an appointment at many of them. If you feel sick but do not want to leave your wait time to chance, many let you either reserve a spot online or you can call. You do not have to do this but you can, if it makes it more convenient for you.
- It is less expensive than the emergency room. There is no question that the most expensive place to get health care is at the emergency room. This is one reason health insurance carriers have embraced urgent care centers. It is a much more affordable option. Some studies show that care received at urgent care centers can be as much as 700% less than the care at the emergency room. And the quality of care received is just as high at the urgent care center as at the emergency room.
- Your co-payment will be lower. Because the cost of care at the urgent care center is lower than at the emergency room, insurance companies like to encourage their members to go to urgent care centers. For many people, this is one of the bigger advantages of urgent care. Lower out of pocket costs are important for anyone on a budget.
- There is no facility fee. When you go to the emergency room, you are charged a facility fee and the physicians’ fees. Both of these are enormous when compared to the charges that you will get when you are treated in an urgent care center.
- There is probably an urgent care center near you. Given the fact that there are 10,000 urgent care centers around the country, there is a good chance that you live near such a center. Whether you live in a suburban area or an urban area, you probably live near an urgent care facility. Depending on where you live, you may not be near an emergency room.
- It is more relaxed. When you go to the emergency room, it stressful. There are ambulances coming and going and the entire atmosphere is just chaotic. The opposite is the case when you go to an urgent care center.
Being ill or injured is never fun but getting medical treatment does not have to be stressful. Urgent care centers offer a great alternative to the emergency room.