Most of us have experienced something like this. It is 6:30 pm on a Friday and your seven year old daughter fell playing soccer. She hurt her left knee, what do you do? Or, it is 2:00 pm on Saturday and you fell racing down a tennis ball. You got to it in time but in your pivot back, slipped and now your ankle really hurts, what do you do? You would like to call your primary care doctor. You would like to call the pediatrician. The rub is that you can call them but they will not be able to see you until Monday morning. You do not want to wait days to be treated, you need health care now. Do you go to the emergency room? You are in luck. There is another option. You can go to a skip the wait urgent care center.
Walk in clinics have popped up around the country to treat urgent medical needs. It is important to note that urgent care is not the same thing as emergency care. You can only get emergency care in a hospital emergency room. True medical emergencies such as heart attacks, strokes, gunshot wounds all need to be treated in a hospital setting. People go to skip the wait urgent care centers for health care that cannot wait but does not rise to the level of “emergency.” Urgent care clinics provide health care right away.
Skip the wait urgent care clinics were started in the 1970s. Some medical professionals saw there was a need for convenient health care options. The best place to get health care is always going to be your primary care physician’s office but that is not always an option. Before then, the only option for health care at night or on the weekends was the emergency room but do you really need an emergency room for your itchy eyes?
Since that first skip the wait urgent care center opened back in the 1970s, thousands of urgent care clinics have opened up around the country. There are about 9,300 in the United States. It is estimated that between 10 and 100 new urgent care centers open every year because there is such a need for this kind of health care. These center offer skillful convenient and affordable care. Many health insurance carriers have really taken to these centers because they are so much less expensive than the care you get at the emergency room. While the health care you get at most emergency rooms in the country is first rate, it is the most expensive way to get your health care. Experts report that the typical reimbursement for an urgent care center visit is $103. When you compare that to the $302 that each patient gets from the average hospital emergency department visit, you can see the monetary value of going to an urgent care center.
Cost is not the only area where skip the wait urgent care centers are useful. When you go to an emergency room, you are seen, not just in the order you get there but emergency rooms have to prioritize care. If you go in with your sprained ankle and an ambulance comes in with a gun shot victim, they have to tend to that person before they see you. It makes sense and is the right thing to do but it means you will spend your entire Saturday getting your ankle looked at. Most urgent care centers have x-ray machines and 60% of the time, you will wait 15 minutes to be seen. Most patients are in and out of the urgent care center in an hour or less.
The experience is also less stressful. When your seven year old hurts her knee on the soccer field, taking her to the urgent care center will be a much more relaxed experience. You can get her in and out within and hour and she can be home before bedtime.
There is even another option. There are hybrid emergency room and urgent care centers to help when you need them.