Urgent Care: A Middleman of Medical Assistance
Situations involving the need to seek medical attention can be costly and stressful. An accident or sudden symptoms can occur without warning, bringing your day to a grinding halt. In the heat of the moment, it might seem most convenient to go to the nearest Emergency Department. Afterall, health issues that arise without much notice feel like emergencies that must be dealt with immediately. But often, the situation doesn’t warrant a trip to the ER.
According to a recent study conducted by the Becker Hospital Review, a study conducted by Truven Health Analytics found that 70% of visits to the Emergency Room/Emergency Departments in the US are for non-emergency conditions. These unnecessary visits not only cost Americans a fortune but result in resources diverted from true emergencies.
Instead of seeking medical assistance at the ER, healthcare experts urge Americans to visit their doctor’s office or the nearest retail health clinic, also known as Urgent Care Clinics. In fact, many insurance plans have limits to ER coverage in non-emergency situations, and some more limited plans do not offer ER coverage but instead offer copay Urgent Care visits to reduce costs and make the plans more affordable.
What Is an Urgent Care Clinic?
Urgent Care Clinics are for people who have critical, but non-life-threatening health issues that require immediate treatment. This means the issue is severe enough that your family physician can’t address the condition, but not urgent enough that it requires immediate life-saving treatment at an ER. What can you expect from an Urgent Care Clinic?
- Extended hours with no appointment necessary—shorter wait times!
- Convenient locations, even in remote areas outside of cities
- Run by medical professionals familiar with commonly severe injuries and illnesses
- Onsite access to x-rays, laboratories for blood/urine sample analysis, and other diagnostic tools
- Immediate prescription pickup at the clinic
- Less expensive and more transparent about costs of services
Reasons to Visit an Urgent Care Clinic.
Each clinic provides a variety of services and a list of conditions they treat. It’s recommended that you contact them directly—either through their website or by phone—to ensure they can provide medical assistance for your health issue. Here are examples of general conditions often treated in Urgent Care Clinics in the US:
- Bronchitis, cold, flu, etc.
- Minor cuts and burns
- Back or muscle pain
- Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
- Common skin conditions
- Eye problems
- Mild sprains or joint pain
- Earache and sinus pain
- Eye problems
- Upper respiratory infection
- Urinary Tract Infections
- Sports injuries
- Animal Bites
In addition to these health issues, Urgent Care Clinics can also provide immunizations, physical examinations, and other routine types of care typically performed by a family physician.
How to Choose an Urgent Care Clinic.
Like with every healthcare provider, it’s vital to keep your medical and financial needs in mind. Urgent Care Clinics not only vary in the conditions they treat, the staff they provide, and the costs associated with their services, but they are also owned by different parties. This means that while your insurance covers the Urgent Care Clinic down the road, the one on the other side of town might not be in-network.
When it comes to choosing a location, keep the following factors in mind:
- Whether or not they work with/accept your insurance
- The type of providers available at the location(s)
- Location convenience and hours of operation
- Review list of health issues they treat and services they provide
- If you don’t see what you need, ask them directly
- Ensure they share treatment/medical records with your family doctor
- Research patient ratings and reviews
You can dig into your healthcare benefits guide in the “Medical Services” section to find out if Urgent Care is covered by your insurance. Keep in mind that there might be a copay associated per visit or a deductible might need to be met prior to your insurance covering an Urgent Care visit. To find a location that best meets your needs, use your health insurance’s online tools to run a filter-based search to see which location is In-Network.
The above content is purely informational and is not comprehensive.
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