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Glossary > Urgent Care

Urgent Care

When you have an injury, or you become ill, you may be wondering what your best course of action is. Should you make an appointment with your doctor, go to a walk-in clinic, or go to the emergency room. It can be a difficult decision, especially since walk-in treatment facilities are a new concept. By taking the time to understand what makes an urgent walk-in clinic unique, you can learn which health care option to choose in a given situation.

If you are able to get an appointment with your doctor within a reasonable time, certain conditions are better treated by them. For example, a rash with no other symptoms, a chronic condition you are being treated by them for, or question about long-standing symptoms.

Walk-in facilities are able to provide high-quality health care when most doctor’s offices are closed or when you cannot get an appointment right away. They can address urgent health and injury concerns during the day, evening, weekends, and most holidays. Some walk-in clinics are open through the night. Urgent care cost is a lot lower than you would experience at other treatment facilities.

Any life-threatening injury or medical condition should be treated at an emergency room. Conditions like heart attacks, head injuries, poisonings, and severe penetrating wounds should be seen in a location where a trauma staff is present.

What is Urgent Care

It wasn’t that long ago what hospitals were able to accommodate the number of patients coming through their doors. This is because they were staffed with local doctors who had practiced in that area. However, times have changed and most emergency rooms are staffed with doctors from other areas who are assigned to that hospital. This leaves the facility understaffed and patients who are not considered to be an emergency are pushed to the back of the line, possibly for hours. You will also be surprised at the how much money you save because treatment at an urgent care cost less than an emergency room.

Walk-in clinics were developed to fill in the gaps between your doctor’s office and the emergency room. They have longer hours than doctor’s offices and patients are seen on a walk-in basis. They treat common ailments and urgent conditions. Urgent care facilities are not equipped to treat life-threatening conditions, but if a patient arrives in distress because the urgent care is closer than a hospital, doctors use available equipment to stabilize the patient until emergency transport has arrived to take them to an emergency room.

When to Go to Urgent Care Vs. Doctor

You should go to an urgent care center in situations where you need treatment for an acute illness or an injury. These conditions are ones that require attention from a medical professional but is not considered severe enough for you to go to the emergency room. Walk-in clinics are staffed with a variety of medical professionals, including:

  • Doctors
  • Physician’s assistants
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Nurses
  • Medical assistants
  • Radiology technicians
  • Receptionists

They provide a wide array of services that are considered acute in nature. They provide treatment for basic injuries, fractures, and the need for IV fluids.

Urgent Care Cost

Just like a visit to the emergency room, the price of a visit to an urgent care cost will vary depending on the services you are provided. Overall, the urgent care cost is much less than going to an emergency room. In many cases, the cost savings can be up to 80%.

Can You Be Turned Away from Urgent Care

Walk-in clinics do not operate under the same laws as an emergency room. Standards of care do apply to urgent care facilities. While the facility is not held to the same legal obligations as an emergency room, they are required to follow the legal steps associated with standards of care.

If you arrive with a medical emergency, you cannot be turned away. Conditions that are considered a medical emergency are defined as any condition that is serious enough that delayed treatment will cause it to become materially worse. In a medical emergency, a walk-in clinic is legally required to stabilize the patient’s condition and contact emergency transportation, such as an ambulance, to take you to an emergency room. They can deny service at their discretion for minor injuries.

Do You Need Health Insurance to Go to Urgent Care

Urgent walk-in clinics accept most types of health insurance. However, patients who go to urgent care are not required to have health insurance. Self-pay patients are required to pay a small amount up front for their visit. Keep in mind that the payment you provide when you arrive is not the full payment that will be due. Many facilities ask for a credit card number to keep on file. This credit card will be charged the remaining amount per the contract you sign with the urgent care facility.