There are several medical options that you have when it comes to sickness. If you get sick, or you are involved in an accident, you may need help. Many times, people confuse urgent care for emergency rooms, and they are not the same. They are also not the same as your primary care physician, which makes things a bit difficult to manage when you need a helping hand from pain, or other issues. There are a few tips that you should follow in order to recognize when it’s important to visit urgent care versus other medical facilities. Once you know these, you can find an office near you, and get the help that you need, quickly.
The Terms Are Confusing (Urgent and Emergency)
Initially, you’ll find urgent care and emergency care seem interchangeable. They seem to mean something similar, but there’s a difference in regards to the staff, technology, and the purpose of each one. There’s a gap in medical care from the emergency room and urgent medical attention. Mainly, when someone is sick or injured, a doctor can help in each case, but in one instance, the severity of the injury can come into play.
For instance, hospital emergency rooms are open 24 hours a day, and can deal with trauma such as a bullet wound, compound fractures, and even surgical repair. They deal with trauma and are frequently being rushed patients from law enforcement and ambulances alike. That is not necessarily what urgent care clinics deal with, although they may have the doctors and nurses with education and experience to assist in that arena.
Urgency Over Emergency
Urgent care clinics specialize in a lot of different medical practices. They help with sickness and issues that are not emergencies. Things as simple as a sore throat, vomiting, or ear pain can be taken care of there. Also, if you come down with a cold, or sinus infection, you can visit a doctor there. There’s a wide range of issues that can occur in daily life that you do not need to see a specialist for, but still need a doctor’s opinion. Rashes, diarrhea, fever, painful urination, and much more can come into play.
While these clinics do not need an appointment, nor do they require you to get a referral from a primary care physician, it’s important to understand that they are not emergency rooms. They may keep certain hours, or they may be open 24 hours a day. They specialize in caring for patience that need immediate help, but are not necessarily in a situation that requires surgery immediately.
Calling 911 May Be Necessary
There are situations that you may be involved with that requires quick action. If someone is having a stroke, or if they are having a heart attack, do not go to urgent care facilities. Those times will require you to call 911. Some situations are literally life or death, and may need you to act fast with instructions that a 911 operator will give you. They will also dispatch an ambulance to your location. For these situations, the patient may be in dire need, and will require hospitalization.
If the person that is sick, or in an accident can walk, breathe, and talk without too much pain, then a clinic is a good solution. The urgent care facility you choose will assess whether or not they need x-rays, or perhaps need to see a specialist. If that’s the case, you’ll receive a referral so that you’re able to move forward with proper health care. However, in most instances, they may be able to help out.
Calling Ahead or Walking In
Unlike your primary care physician, you may not need to make an appointment to see an urgent care doctor. There are clinics that open daily that you can visit. You can call ahead to gauge wait times, and see if there are any elements that you need to consider ahead of time. However, unlike other offices, you don’t need to wait for an opening, you can walk in, use your insurance, or pay out of pocket. Whether you are in a “network” or not, these facilities are open to the public, and can help with a wide range of ailments.
The next time you come down with something, and your primary care doctor is not available, think about getting to an urgent care center. You’ll be surprised by how easy it is to talk to a doctor, get some medication, and get back on your feet. Test it once, and see.
– Joseph Taiwo, M.D.