1) What are walk-in clinics/urgent care centers?
If you are faced with a non-life threatening illness or mild injury, an urgent care center or walk-in clinic can offer you medical attention in the event your primary care physician is not available and/or when a trip to the emergency room may not be necessary. Many urgent care clinics are often open after hours, seven days a week and appointments are not necessary.
2) Choosing a walk-in clinic/urgent care center
There are more than 8,000 urgent care clinics in the United States. Choosing a center often comes down to proximity, insurance and quality of care. You want to choose a center that is near your home or work and can offer you quality care and assistance in a reasonable amount of time. Consider this list of factors when choosing an urgent care center:
Location: Is the urgent care center a reasonable distance from your home, school or office?
Availability: What hours is the urgent care center open? Many walk-in clinics are not open 24 hours, however they commonly accommodate after hours, weekends and holidays. It is advisable to call ahead to confirm hours of operation and ensure it fits your schedule.
Insurance: Does the clinic accept your individual health insurance plan or group health insurance plans? Many clinics accept most insurance plans. If you do not have insurance, the clinic will assist you, but there is an upfront charge required.
Quality: Is it too crowded? Were you treated kindly? Did you receive adequate care? These questions can be difficult to answer before you visit a clinic, but if you do not receive quality care, you should report the mishap and find another clinic for future needs.
Recommendations: Ask a friend or relative about their experiences at local urgent care centers. Quality is easier to measure when you can learn from someone else’s experience.
3) When to use urgent care centers/walk-in clinics
Emergency room wait times are often high and should be reserved for emergency use only. Urgent care centers are designed to free up emergency rooms for true emergencies. Severe accidents, deadly illness, bleeding wounds and similar incidences are for the emergency room, but basic illnesses, such as a cold, the flu, a cough and even a fever can be treated at an urgent care center.
Basic injuries such as bruising, sprains or possible minor broken bones can also be diagnosed at an urgent care center, where they may send you onto a hospital depending on the degree of injury. Walk-in clinics offer you fast, quality medical care and, in most cases, for a lot less money than the ER. This is why it is important to be aware of your ER alternatives before you need them.