Nobody likes going to the emergency room. It’s expensive (in 2013 the National Institute of Health found that emergency room visits cost an average of $1,233) , and unless you’re afflicted with a serious injury or illness that pushes you to the front of the line, it can take an hour or more of waiting to even be seen by a doctor when the emergency department is busy. But, if you have a non-life threatening illness or injury, such as a broken finger or the flu, you have another option: urgent care.
An urgent care clinic, or emergency clinic, is a walk in clinic equipped to treat common illnesses and injuries– the kinds of things that you’d want to be seen about right away, but get charged an insane amount get pushed to the end of the queue for in an ER. According to the Urgent Care Association of America, there are about 9,000 urgent care centers across the United States, 61% of which have been offering emergency care for five years or more. On average, each of these centers services 342 patients every week. If you need some more convincing before trying it out, here are three good reasons why you should consider a walk in clinic for your minor medical emergencies.
- High Quality of Care
With 40% of urgent care clinics having been in operation for nine years or longer, they have to be doing their jobs well. Some major hospitals have their own walk in clinics, guaranteeing the same quality of care that you would get in any other department. Even if the urgent care clinic you visit is not attached to a hospital, you can count on a high standard of care. 95% of urgent care clinics have physicians on staff, and those that don’t are staffed by certified highly trained and equally capable registered nurses and nurse practitioners. If the staff determines that you require intravenous fluids, 70% of urgent care clinics are equipped to provide them.
And don’t worry– if your condition turns out to be more serious than they are equipped to handle, they will send you to an ER.
Urgent care clinics may not all be open 24 hours like hospital emergency departments, but they still have convenient hours. More than two thirds of urgent care clinics open before 9am on week days, with 45.7% also opening before 9 on Saturday, and 31.1% on Sunday. Once you’re in the door, a whopping 69% of clinics will get you in to see a care provider in under 20 minutes, which beats the national ER average of 24 minutes by a fair margin. ERs in Maryland and Washington D.C. come in at a whopping 46 and 54 minutes, respectively, while 97% of urgent care clinics nation wide will get you seen in under 40 minutes. Only 3% of urgent care facilities have a wait of over 40 minutes, which is still far preferable to waiting a day, several days, or even a week or more to see your general practitioner.
Urgent care can also get you on your way more quickly after you’ve been seen. 48.6% offer “point-of-care” dispensing, which means they have pre-portioned pharmaceuticals available to give you on the spot, rather than making you go to a pharmacy and wait for your prescription to be filled after you leave.
- Low Cost
Possibly the most convincing reason to turn to a walk in health clinic instead of the ER next time you get sick is the cost. We already found out that the average cost of an ER visit is over $1,200, but how much can you save by going to an urgent care unit for the same diagnosis? You may be shocked to hear that you will save anywhere from $228 to $583 by opting for urgent care.
When you can save time, save money, and receive the same high level of care, why wouldn’t you choose urgent care for a non-life threatening illness or injury?
Where will you go for treatment of your next minor medical emergency?