Urgent care centers come in handy when you need care, and your primary doctor is unavailable. Before these centers were established, 73% of Americans could not access their primary care doctors at night or on weekends. This number has significantly decreased over the years. In this article, we will look at these care centers in a little more detail and discuss whether to choose emergency room services or urgent care.
There are now over 9,000 urgent care centers in the United States. They remain open 7 days a week, until 9 p.m. or later. They are usually staffed by family care and emergency room physicians. You can receive almost all the services available in an emergency room or even your primary doctor’s office. The centers do not, however, keep your medical history. They also do not handle emergency, life-threatening conditions.
The centers do have most of the equipment needed for treatment, for instance, lab testing equipment and x-ray machines. They also have more sophisticated equipment to help in casting broken bones.
Simple medical conditions like flu and blood sugar tests can be treated at urgent care centers. Nearly all the treatment and procedures that you will receive at these centers is covered by insurance.
Emergency rooms (ER) versus urgent care centers
One-third to one-half of all emergency room visits (at least 56%) are for non-urgent care. The top three reasons for emergency room visits are usually sprains and strains, superficial cuts, and upper respiratory infections. All these could be effectively treated at urgent centers.
One way to choose between ERs and urgent care centers is to consider the conditions that are better handled at the different facilities. If you experience the following symptoms, you need to go for emergency room services:
Large wounds, weakness, burns, loss of balance, broken bones, stroke-like symptoms, heavy bleeding, seizures, chest pains, vomiting blood, head injuries, severe abdominal or cranial pain, wheezing/shortness of breath, paralysis, high fevers and rash among children, severe head or eye injuries, unconsciousness, intestinal bleeding, vaginal bleeding with pregnancy, poisoning, and allergic reactions.
If you experience the following symptoms, then an urgent care center will be a better option.
Minor injuries that do not require emergency treatment, colds, treatment for chronic conditions, like hypertension and diabetes, physical examinations, follow-up treatments, fevers, animal or insect bites, bronchitis, cuts and bleedings (requiring stitches), breathing difficulties like moderate asthma, x-rays and lab tests, minor back pain, ear infections, seasonal allergies, sprains and broken bones, vomiting or diarrhea, urinary tract infections and minor back pain.
While the above-mentioned symptoms can be used to determine whether to go for ER services or otherwise, some of them may straddle the line. In this case, only a medic can offer the best advice. If you are not sure how serious a symptom is, it is better to go for ER services.
Since it is no possible to have a definitive, conclusive list of what symptoms should be treated at an ER, the general rule of thumb is that if a condition can permanently endanger or impair your life, then going to the emergency room is a no-brainer.
All in all
The importance of urgent care centers cannot be underestimated. Instead of having to wait too long for ER services when you have a minor medical problem, you …