By taking patients who are would normally go to an ER for non-life threatening illnesses or accidents, an urgent care facility tends to patients with acute conditions with quality care while allowing the emergency room staff to handle cases that involve true life and death situations.
WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM URGENT CARE?
Urgent care facilities are designed to benefit you.
There are now over 11,000 walk in clinics in the United States, and nearly 9,000 of them are urgent care clinics. Walk in clinics, in Houston and elsewhere, are growing in number and popularity, as they have found a “niche” in the modern medical market. Partly, this increased use of walk in and urgent care centers reflects the overly costly nature of more “traditional” approaches. It also, however, fills a natural place in a wide spectrum of care options.
In Houston, as in most major cities, there are many hospitals, doctor’s offices, and specialist practices to choose from, but there are often strong reasons for using a walk in clinic instead.
What Is a “Walk In Clinic?”
Any medical center where a patient is permitted to simply show up for healthcare services without an appointment is considered a “walk in clinic.” You can use these clinics whenever you are in need of help, the only restriction being that it must be within their normal, usually extended business hours. These clinics are distinguished from emergency rooms not only by the typical wait times, costs, and protocols, but also simply by the fact that a true ER is a part of a larger medical institution (a hospital) rather than an independent entity.
There are three main kinds of walk in clinics: urgent care centers, free clinics, and retail clinics. Retail clinics, also called “convenient care clinics,” are generally located in grocery stores, pharmacies, and retail outlets. They major on minor ailments and preventative care, and normally there is a nurse practitioner rather than a doctor on hand. Free clinics are designed to meet the needs of those who who cannot afford to pay for their healthcare, for health insurance, or even for Medicare/Medicaid. While helpful in treating both chronic diseases and more immediate concerns, free clinics are staffed mostly by community volunteers and do not deal with emergency care situations.
Urgent care clinics, the most common kind of walk in clinic, provide a wide range of services, but they are especially distinguished among other walk in clinics by their provision of minor emergency care. They find their niche in that they are ideal for caring for non-life-threatening emergencies that do not necessarily require an ER visit. When you cannot afford to wait and schedule a doctor’s appointment but you don’t really need to rush off to the hospital emergency room, an urgent care facility may be the best choice.
Reasons to Use a Walk In Clinic
It is practically impossible to list every situation in which a walk in clinic would be helpful. However, what we can do is list some of the most important reasons why people frequently choose a walk in clinic over other options:
The rising costs of traditional healthcare are driving people to seek out alternatives. Walk in clinics are simply cheaper, on average, than other options, and 80% of emergency room visits could just as well have been handled at a walk in clinic. Furthermore, they accept most forms of insurance and usually provide big discounts to those who are without insurance coverage. Walk ins are simply the most cost-effective way to deal with non-life threatening medical emergencies.
2. Faster Service
Instead of waiting several hours at an ER with, say, a bone fracture before being attended to, you can likely receive care in 30 minutes or less at a walk in clinic. Most walk in clinics offer extended hours and make themselves available in the evenings, on weekends, and even some holidays. If an emergency strikes during the clinic’s off-hours, you would have to go to the ER, but if the walk in clinic is open, it will be faster.
3. Greater Convenience
Without any hassle of making an appointment and following a strict schedule, it is simply more convenient to use a walk in clinic for things like immunizations, flu and cold treatments, pediatric care, medical lab tests, and X-ray services. Mandatory physical exams for school, sports, or work are also commonly done at walk in clinics due to the ease with which it can be accomplished.
4. Access to a Quick Diagnosis
Sometimes, it is clear that you don’t need to make an ER trip, but neither are you sure exactly how serious your condition is. For example, you may be uncertain if you have the flu or a common cold, and there is only a 48-hour window of time to get flu medicine before your symptoms become severe. Another example might be a hurt leg that may have a fracture but may only be sprained. A walk in clinic can quickly diagnose you so you know what steps to take next.
Some Objections to Walk In Clinics
Some physicians have shown a dislike for the existence of walk in clinics, saying that they interfere with the relationship between doctor and patient. They note that, without access to the patient’s full medical records, chronic problems could be overlooked. However, chronic care is not the specialty of walk in clinics, some do have access to medical records through affiliated institutions, and patients can make the clinic’s personnel aware of the most relevant aspects of their medical history when appropriate.
Another objection is that by avoiding the ER, you put yourself at risk since seemingly minor problems may end up being quite serious ones. However, most walk in clinics can recognize when to send a patient to the ER–though only 2% to 4% are so redirected. The clinic staff are capable of stabilizing patients with, say, a deep cut and getting them to the ER in time in the rare case that such a transfer is necessary.
Where to Get Urgent Care in Houston
While there are many walk in and urgent care clinics in greater Houston, one that clearly stands out from the crowd is Next Level Urgent Care. They not only offer the on-demand, short-wait care that is standard in the industry, but they have competitive, upfront prices and significant medical discounts for the uninsured. They are open from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. and have multiple clinics in the area, making for a high level of availability.
st about anyone who needs urgent medical attention–as long as the condition is not life threatening (heart attack, stroke, knife wounds to the chest or heart, and severed limbs are good examples). The ultimate goal is to provide care to individuals who need medical attention but do not require the services of an emergency room.
Most doctor’s offices don’t have xray capabilities. That is the only similarity between an urgent care and an ER. ER’s have cat scans and ultra sound machines while urgent care’s don’t.Urgent care facilities typically have the same types of diagnostic equipment featured at your family doctor’s office, and more. Well-equipped facilities even feature x-ray equipment to quickly assess possible fractures. Urgent care offices typically operate far past the normal business hours of general practitioners–late into the evening and even on weekends and holidays.
By offering these services, they make it easy for a person to get the medical attention they need without waiting in line at a sometimes overcrowded emergency room. Urgent care facilities also work with patients who do not have insurance. Some of these clinics are capable of offering convenient payment plans to individuals who do not have insurance but are in dire need of medical attention.
WHAT MAKES URGENT CARE DIFFERENT?
There are several aspects that make urgent care different from both a traditional doctor’s office and an emergency room. Most family doctors have set hours that must accommodate the patients as well as potential shifts at the local hospital. This can dramatically impact a patient who needs medical attention for an acute health issue or injury. If your doctor’s office is fully booked, you used to only have one another option–the emergency room. With urgent care facilities, you can receive the attention you need, when you need it, and often without an appointment.
When comparing urgent care facilities to emergency rooms, the critical comparison has to do with time and the seriousness of the injury. Emergency rooms are designed to handle severe medical emergencies. Many individuals will go to an ER if they have a medical issue when their normal doctor’s office is closed. If their injuries are not life threatening, their cases can eventually clog the ER, causing long wait times as true emergencies are pulled ahead in the queue. While each case may require medical attention, individuals with minor emergencies can go to an urgent care facility, allowing ER staff to handle life and death cases more efficiently.
Also called walk-in clinics, urgent care facilities generally feature low to no wait times, ensuring that you or a sick loved one are seen by a doctor without delay.
WHAT SERVICES ARE OFFERED BY URGENT CARE FACILITIES?
Urgent care facilities offer the same services as your primary care physician (although it is recommended that you continue to see your family doctor or specialist for chronic conditions and well-checkups!). They also offer many of the same services of as an emergency room, such as x-rays.
Urgent care facilities are ideal when it comes to minor injuries and illnesses that call for medical attention but are not serious enough to warrant a visit to the ER. They can also effectively diagnose and stabilize symptoms indicative of illnesses that are not overly serious.
Some of the conditions treated at urgent care facilities include:
- Minor burns
- Fractures/broken bones
- Sore throat
- Sinus infections
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
- Sports injuries
- Cold and flu
- Animal bites
- Ear infections
- and much more!
ARE URGENT CARE FACILITIES AS RELIABLE AS A HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM?
Urgent care staff members are highly qualified and well-trained medical professionals who are just as reliable as a primary care or emergency room physician. They must have the same credentials as any other medical professional who offers care to patients. Urgent care facilities must also meet or exceed the standards mandated by the state when it comes to patient care and the confidentiality of patient information. They are required to keep the same records and comply with the same health care guidelines as hospitals and larger health care facilities.
An urgent care facility must have the ability to properly care for patients who would otherwise be forced to go to an emergency room. This requires having on staff professional health care providers that are capable of handling various levels of illness and injury. They must also be able to recognize when an injury or illness requires more in-depth treatment than their facility is able to offer. When that occurs, they must be able to offer a referral to the local emergency room. If the condition is severe enough, an ambulance may be called so that constant care can be continued during transport.
When it comes to the advantages of primary care physicians and emergency rooms, urgent care facilities provide the best of both worlds. Urgent care facilities are capable of handling countless illnesses and conditions quickly and efficiently, at a very reasonable price, with short wait times and excellent service.
Next Level Urgent Care is a Houston area leader in minor emergency services. To find a location near you, visit /locations.aspx.