Urgent care facilities are becoming commonplace. Once only major cities had them, but now they are popping up even in rural areas. Urgent care facilities offer new options to patients regarding managing their health during acute crises, and it is important to know when to choose an urgent care facility and how to handle the situation.
Generally, this is the first thing you think about. In an emergency, you would obviously want to go to the closest facility. This is especially true if you think you may be having a stroke or heart issues. You may also need to go to one near school or work depending on where the issue occurs. In an emergency, don’t worry about who has your records, just get to the closest urgent care facility.
Be ready to give your medical history. Urgent care facilities are not your physician so they need to know everything they can before treating you. You may even have to repeat your medical history each time you come in because of different medical professional’s schedules. Most urgent care facilities keep a record of your visits and why you came in, but not all will include a medical history with this information.
Reduced Wait Times
You can expect to wait at an urgent care facility, but the waits will be much shorter than at an emergency room. You can check to see if the doctor to patient ratio is low. If so, you will be seen faster. Some urgent care facilities even have real-time wait times posted on their website.
Lower Cost than an Emergency Room
The average cost for a visit to an urgent care facility is much less than an emergency room. You should expect to pay between $100 and $200. Emergency room visits range from $400 to $1,000. Urgent care facilities also see all patients even if they do not have insurance. If you do not have insurance then you would be expected to pay cash or credit card upfront. If you are covered by insurance you can expect to pay 15% to 30% less than your copay for emergency room visits.
If you have a choice of urgent care facilities, you should make sure that your facility has the most recent equipment. The Urgent Care Association of America requires its certified members to have all of the following:
- X-ray on site
- Phlebotomy services on site
- Licensed provider on-site with the appropriate state licenses and resources to:
- obtain and read an EKG and x-ray on site
- administer PO, IM & IV medication/fluids on site
- perform minor procedures (ex. sutures, cyst removal, incision & drainage, splinting) on site
- The following equipment, and staff trained in its use:
- automated external defibrillator (AED) (or more advanced device)
- oxygen, Ambu-bag/oral airway
- drug cart stocked appropriately for the patient population (as determined by the facility)
- working phone to dial 911
- At least two exam rooms, separate waiting areas, and restricted access to patient restrooms.
Innovative Treatment Options
Many urgent care facilities are willing to try innovative treatments that may not be tried elsewhere. Emergency rooms have little time to try new things, but urgent care facilities often give doctors time to get updated on new techniques and treatments.
You can also check to see if your urgent care facility has been certified by either the Urgent Care Association of America (UCAA) or the American Academy of Urgent Care Medicine (AAUCM). When an urgent care facility is certified, you know that it has met the high standards set by the agency certifying them.
Look for Services You May Need
Obviously you are seeking urgent care and you will not always be able to predict what type of care you will need. However, you may have certain conditions that are more apt to appear. For example, heart issues or strokes. You should review your family history to see if you are at risk for any conditions so that you know where to go should they occur.
Types of Practitioners and Their Specialties
Some urgent care facilities have nurse practitioners under the supervision of a doctor. Others have only medical doctors. In addition, some urgent care facilities may specialize in areas like pediatrics. You should check to make sure that your facility can meet your needs.
Visit the Urgent Care Facility
Finally, if you are prone to situations requiring the use of an urgent care facility, pay them a visit before a crisis occurs. You can see first hand whether or not the facility can meet your needs and make a deliberate decision when you aren’t pressed for time.