Urgent Care: Providing A Less Costly Alternative For Non-Life-Threatening Medical Issues And Supplemental Services
Urgent care centers are set up to provide you with a variety of services. The word "urgent", however, can be confusing. What is the difference between "urgent" and "emergency"? What kind of procedures can you have done at an urgent care facility? It is time to de-mystify urgent care so you can make an informed choice.
The Difference between Emergency and Urgent Care
Emergency room visits are typically higher in cost, either out-of-pocket or for an insurance copay. Urgent care centers come in with lower up-front costs to be seen by a doctor and, often, lower insurance copays. So, if your situation is not an emergency, it makes sense to go to an urgent care facility. So how do you know when your situation is an emergency?
Emergency situations are classified as conditions that are life-threatening or could cause permanent damage. Some examples include:
- Severe chest pain
- Excessive bleeding
- Ingestion of poison
- Complex, compound fracture
- Severe depression with thoughts of suicide or harming others
Urgent care situations are defined as unexpected or chronic illnesses that would also be seen by your regular doctor. Often, people seek urgent care if their regular physician is unavailable or if it is outside of normal office hours. Examples of urgent care include:
- Mild to moderate asthma
- Sprains and muscle pulls
- Irritation or redness in the eyes, such as from allergies or an infection
- Cuts requiring stitches
- Flu or fever
Urgent Care for Supporting Services
Urgent care is not just about seeking a medical diagnosis in a pinch. There are regular services that you can obtain from some urgent care facilities, because urgent care facilities may be more convenient or have better hours. Some of those services include:
- X-rays as follow up to a regular, physician visit—An urgent care center has an in-house x-ray machine to help in the diagnosis of minor breaks or other issues where an x-ray could prove helpful.
- Laboratory services—Nowadays, lab work is performed outside of the doctor's office more often. Urgent care facilities are equipped to draw and analyze blood and urine in the diagnosis of common illnesses, such as urinary tract infections. These same facilities can be used for employer-required health or drug tests.
- Vaccinations—These can be done as part of a standard immunization schedule or in preparation for international travel.
- Well-woman tests—Pap smears can be performed in many urgent care facilities.
Receiving the right medical attention in a timely manner can be a lot easier by using an urgent care center. Urgent care services can supplement your regular physician services or provide care when you are unable to see your regular physician. If you have a potentially life-threatening illness, you should still go to the closest emergency room.