Are you the sort of person who keeps a cool head in the event of an emergency situation? When someone gets hurt, are you the one who remembers where the first aid kit is, and evaluates the severity of the injury?
If so, you might find yourself faced with a decision — does the accident or illness warrant a trip to the emergency room or will a visit to an urgent care clinic suffice? Read on to learn about the difference between these two healthcare options.
First, What Is an Urgent Care Clinic?
Most people know what the emergency department of a hospital does. Even if they’ve been lucky enough never to need one themselves, chances are they’ve watched a television drama or reality program involving emergency medical personnel.
Urgent care centers are relatively new on the health care scene — and they’re becoming increasingly popular. In fact, the number of urgent care clinics in the United States has grown from about 6,400 in 2014 to over 8,000 today.
Urgent care facilities are also known as walk-in clinics, and that gives a good clue to their nature. Staffed by physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, and other medical professionals, urgent care centers don’t require an appointment like a traditional doctor’s office. Yet unlike hospital ERs, the wait times are substantially shorter.
What Kind of Treatment Do They Provide?
When it comes to the types of illnesses and injuries that an urgent care clinic treats, they more closely resemble your general practitioner’s office than an emergency department. They treat conditions such as:
- simple broken bones
- minor lacerations
- sore throats
- upper respiratory infections
- urinary tract infections
- ear infections
- sprains and strains
In these situations, you probably don’t want to wait for an appointment at your doctor’s office, unless they can squeeze you in the same day. That’s why urgent care clinics fill the gap so well.
When To Go To the Emergency Room
More serious, potentially life-threatening conditions or injuries like the following require a call to 911 and/or a trip to the nearest hospital emergency department.
- heart attack or stroke
- severe chest pain
- gunshot wounds
- head trauma
- compound fractures
- loss of consciousness
- difficulty breathing
If you or someone around you is seriously injured, call 911 or head to the ER.
Other Urgent Care Services
More and more urgent care centers are providing additional services, such as routine physical exams for students, X-rays, bloodwork, urinalysis, and vaccinations. This makes it extremely easy for patients to take care of their health, at their own convenience and without having to take time off from work.
What About Payment and Insurance?
Many urgent care facilities accept a variety of insurance plans. They are also a great solution for anyone who doesn’t have health insurance. Their costs are generally much, much lower than the out-of-pocket cost of emergency department treatment.
In fact, the average cost of a visit to the ER is over $2,000. That’s over 10 times as expensive as urgent care costs, which average under $200. For the uninsured, these types of clinics are an absolute lifesaver — literally, in some cases.
Although you certainly can’t plan for an emergency, you can plan to get convenient, affordable healthcare services at an urgent care clinic.
Before you have to visit, check whether Oxford Urgent Care accepts your insurance, read patient reviews, and more — so that you’re prepared for anything!