Should I use Urgent Care?
Feeling blah? Like you have the flu or an upset stomach that isn’t getting better? Or maybe you’ve sprained your ankle—or worse. It’s late and you’ve called your doctor’s office only to find that they can’t see you until tomorrow. Should you go to the emergency room?
But think about what happens when you go to the ER with a minor ailment. Victims of heart attacks, asthma attacks, and serious injuries are always going to go to the head of the line.
“That’s the way it should be in an emergency room,” says Dr. Joseph Badolato, DO, medical director at FamilyCare Health. “But it means you may wait hours to be seen for non-emergency care.”
You can probably save that wait by going to an urgent care clinic. Within 30 minutes of walking into an urgent care clinic, 90 percent of patients are seen by a provider. Within an hour, 84 percent are ready to go home.
What’s urgent care?
Unless it’s an emergency, call your primary care provider first. “Your PCP already knows your medical history,” Dr. Badolato says “That makes your PCP the first choice for most care.”
If your PCP is like most, he or she sets aside time each day to see patients with urgent medical needs. If your PCP’s office isn’t open, though, an urgent care center may be. In fact, 97 percent of urgent care centers are open seven days a week. Nearly all are open later than usual doctor office hours.
Urgent care centers are almost always located in places you already go, like strip malls and shopping districts. That means they’re often close to bus lines and Max stops.
Urgent cares are staffed by doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Some symptoms that can be treated at urgent care include:
• Fever without rash
• Common sprains and other minor injuries
• Painful urination
• Persistent diarrhea
• Severe sore throat
Urgent care plays a specific role in the health care system. They keep non-emergency cases out of the emergency rooms so they can see the most serious cases. And they forward x-rays and lab tests to your PCP for follow-up care.