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What is Urgent Care?

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Urgent care facilities provide walk-in medical care for non life threatening medical conditions. Anyone seeking medical attention for life threatening medical emergencies should always seek out emergency medical care either by calling 911 or visiting a hospital emergency room. Unlike hospital emergency rooms where patients are evaluated on a triage basis, urgent medical care facilities provide the kinds of treatments that could be seen by a primary care physician on an appointment basis. The primary advantage with urgent care centers is that they provide an easier way to help facilitate health care resources to the community that they service at a fraction of the cost of emergency room services.

What is not urgent care?

While urgent care facilities provide relatively quick access to medical treatment for minor medical conditions, it is important to know what constitutes a medical emergency and when to seek out emergency medical attention. Most urgent care facilities provide guidelines for emergency care treatment, but they can be defined as the following: suspected heart attacks or strokes, sudden or extreme difficulty breathing, very deep cuts, major burns, seizures, sudden or sever headaches, abdominal pain, and poisoning. Anyone experiencing these conditions needs to seek emergency medical attention.

What kinds of services do urgent care facilities provide?

Urgent care facilities provide a range of services for both adults and children older than 18 months. They offer treatments for a wide range of acute and minor illnesses and infections, and they also provide testing and screen services for a number of medical and preventive medical concerns. Minor illnesses ranging from allergies and infections associated with ears, eyes, nose, and throat can be treated at urgent care facilities as well as splinters, sprains, hemorrhoids and many kinds of skin infections. For adults with episodic medical concerns and complications, urgent care facilities provide treatment for minor abdominal pains, vaginal bleeding, asthma, diabetes, and side effects from medications. STD testing and treatment is also offered. Fractures, sprains, minor back pain, and falls from a height of less than seven feet can be treated at urgent care facilities since most are equipped with a minor trauma room and X-ray equipment. For testing services, urgent care facilities provide complete lab cultures, blood tests, STD testing, and variety of preventive screenings for cancer, drug abuse, TB, blood pressure, and cholesterol.

What kind of physicians are on premise?

Typically urgent care facilities are staffed with general practitioner physicians. They also have nurses, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, medical assistants, and radiology technicians. There are 8,700 urgent care facilities in the United States, and 4,700 of those are certified by the state they reside, but the certification process varies by state. However, it is typically the same process that a primary care facility gets its own certification. Hours can vary with urgent care facilities, but they are typically open seven days a week with shorter hours on the weekends. According to the Urgent Care Facility Association, 57% of patients visiting an urgent care clinic had wait times less than 15%, with smaller percentages for those needing to wait longer to be seen. However, only 6% of those seen had wait times longer than 15 minutes. Physicians at urgent care facilities offer a range of referral services, and generally have favorable relationships with hospitals and primary care facilities.

Sheri Clark writes for healthcare blogs. If you’re curious about what is urgent care, read more about how urgent care centers work.

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