Maybe you’ve hurt yourself. Maybe you’re sick. Your doctor isn’t available, but you feel like you need medical attention right away, even if this isn’t technically an emergency. What do you do?
For a large number of people, the answer to this question is simple: go to the emergency room. Often times, however, a trip to the ER isn’t actually necessary. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that 48% of adult ER patients who didn’t require hospital care went to the ER because their regular doctor’s office wasn’t open — an unnecessary visit that can result in a huge charge.
Urgent care centers exist for just this reason. They offer medical care to people who need to see a doctor but aren’t able to reach their regular physician. These facilities stay open after typical office hours, including at night and during the weekend, with the majority operating until at least 7:00 pm. Nearly half remain open until 9:00 pm or later, which means that they’re able to treat a greater number of people.
What can an urgent care facility actually do for you?
In basic terms, all of these centers are equipped to deal with medical issues that you would see your regular physician for. This includes getting a sore throat or fever checked out, receiving a flu vaccination, or examining a sprain. Four out of five centers can even help with fractures. If it’s a problem that you would be comfortable going to your doctor about, then it’s a safe bet that urgent care can take care of it for you, too.
Why should you visit an urgent care center instead of the ER?
If you’re experiencing an actual emergency, you absolutely should go to the ER. The emergency room is equipped to deal with a much larger variety of medical problems. If you simply need to see a doctor, however, urgent care offers a number of advantages.
Perhaps the greatest of these is savings, both in money and in time. A trip to an urgent care center costs much less than a trip to the ER, and the wait is significantly shorter. About 60% of centers have reported a wait time of 15 minutes or less, partially due to the fact that most of them have a physician on the premises at all times.
Neither urgent care nor emergency services can replace your regular physician. You should always see your doctor if they’re available, as they’re the ones who have the most thorough understanding of your medical history. When your doctor’s office is closed, however, and you need medical attention, an urgent care center can make sure you receive the necessary care to get you back towards good health.