Urgent care centers are becoming more popular in the United States. They provide a good alternative to the emergency room for patients who need prompt care but are not dealing with an outright emergency. If an urgent care center is opening in your town, then you may have a few questions. With any luck, you'll find the answers below.
Question: What kinds of conditions do urgent care centers treat?
Urgent care centers are prepared to treat most medical conditions that are not life-threatening. They can suture up most superficial wounds, test for and treat minor concussions, x-ray potentially broken bones, and diagnose the flu and other respiratory illnesses. They do not treat potential heart attacks, strokes, or seizures. If the urgent care doctors feel your condition is more serious than they can handle, they will send you to the local emergency room.
Question: Is visiting the urgent care center expensive?
Visiting emergency rooms is notoriously expensive in the United States, even for people with health insurance. Thankfully, urgent care visits tend to cost significantly less. Most insurance plans cover urgent care centers, only requiring that patients cover a co-pay. And if you do not have insurance, urgent care centers typically offer treatment for an affordable fee. The cost varies depending on the treatments you need, but it's not uncommon to leave with a bill in the $100 - $200 range, which would be unheard of if you were to visit an emergency room.
Question: Do you need to make an appointment to visit the urgent care center?
No! Urgent care centers exist to fill the need for prompt, non-appointment-based medical care. You can walk right in and seek treatment as needed. It can be beneficial to call ahead when you're on your way to the urgent care center. This may allow the urgent care center to put you on a list so you don't have to wait as long to get care. But if you can't call ahead, you should still be able to get treatment.
Question: Can you use urgent care as your primary care physician?
This is not advised. Urgent care centers are designed to provide prompt care after illness or injury. You'll need to have a separate primary care doctor for preventative care and general use.
Urgent care clinics can free up space in emergency rooms and provide more affordable care for patients. You're lucky to have one opening in your town.