You find yourself in need for immediate medical treatment and cannot see your doctor on short notice. Where do you go? The answer is the urgent care center.
Urgent Care Medicine has found its niche between the Primary Care Provider and the Emergency Room. America‘s fast-paced society has been searching for fast, convenient, and affordable medical services. It has found it in the Urgent Care Centers which have experienced an exponential growth in the last few years.
The treating of patients is traditionally done in three distinctive ways: preventive care, management of chronic illnesses, and treatment of acute conditions. Preventive care focuses on the “dos and don’ts” that avoid the initiation or aggravation of medical conditions. It usually falls in the hands of a Primary Care Provider (PCP). The management of chronic (recognized and established) illnesses, which is also handled by the PCP and/or Specialist, requires long term care. Acute (new or sudden) conditions can be classified as Emergencies or Urgencies.
Emergencies carry the potential for loss of life/limb or long term disability and should be treated in the Emergency Department. Urgencies, on the other hand, encompass a vast range of minor injuries and illnesses that do not require in-hospital care and can be worked up, diagnosed and treated (most of the times) during a single encounter.
Historically, patients have resorted to seeking medical attention for both emergencies and urgencies indiscriminately in the ER. This has contributed to the overcrowding that affects these facilities. Most individuals (both adults and children), live fairly healthy lives and need only occasional treatment for minor injuries and illnesses. They are usually active, running busy schedules, and have limited time to spare for doctor’s visits. Now there is a treatment alternative that offers a faster, focused, and much more cost effective way to take care of those folks: the Urgent Care Clinic.
An Urgent Care Clinic is ideally suited for the patient who is unable to see his PCP on short notice, or can only be seen after hours, or needs a physical exam, or is simply sick or injured. This modality of care offers an economical incentive that is reflected in the substantially lower cost for medical care (both co-pay and total visit price). Therefore, it contributes to solving the problem of excessive expenditures of healthcare dollars. In addition, this approach helps reduce ER overcrowding thus allowing the ER physicians to take care of the sickest and severely injured patients. Other benefits of an urgent care clinic include shorter waiting and visit times and no appointments (walk-ins welcome).
Urgent Care Centers are usually staffed by Board Certified Emergency Medicine or Family Medicine doctors and experienced Mid Level Providers (Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants) that deliver high quality care. Most facilities offer on-site X-rays and labs. Typical services include: repair of simple and moderate lacerations; initial management of uncomplicated fractures, dislocations and sprains; minor burns and sun burns; upper respiratory infections, ear and sinus infections; vomiting and diarrhea and other gastrointestinal conditions; genitourinary complaints, skin rashes, poison ivy, boils, insect bites, seasonal and other allergic reactions, sport injuries, travel medicine, work-related injuries, and various physical exams among others.
So…you find yourself in need for immediate medical treatment and cannot see your doctor on short notice. Where do you go? The urgent care center, of course!