Discussing Pediatric Medical Care

« Back to Home

How Urgent Care Centers Play A Unique Role In Health Care And How You Can Benefit From Them

Posted on

The number of urgent care centers in the United States has increased greatly over the past several years, and up to 600 new centers are opening each year. This rapid rise in numbers is due to several reasons, with lack of physician access and rising costs for emergency room care being among the most important. Urgent care centers are filling a valuable role in the American health care system, but some people are still not fully aware of how an urgent care center can meet their needs. Below is more information about them and what you should know when a sudden illness or injury occurs in your household:

Urgent care centers and what sets them apart from traditional care venues

Many people have a favorite doctor that serves their family and has for years or even decades. Primary care physicians, such as pediatricians and internal medicine specialists, are important in that they provide necessary routine care for a variety of conditions. In addition, their role in preventative medicine is also valuable, as immunizations and check-ups are critical to keeping Americans healthy. However, it can be difficult to access some primary care physicians in a timely fashion for illnesses. Appointment wait times can be more than several days, or even weeks, in some circumstances, and many conditions require intervention well before that time has passed.

As an alternative to seeking care in a physician's office where wait times may be prohibitive, many people will often seek care at their local hospital emergency rooms. Emergency rooms are staffed and equipped to deal with medical emergencies, and they are also an immediate option for sick and hurt individuals who cannot wait for their doctor. However, emergency rooms are designed to deal with life-or-death situations and serious injuries that may demand additional services offered by a hospital, such as extensive imaging, surgery, or intensive care. Using an emergency room as a substitute for a family doctor visit is taxing on the medical care system and can create inefficiencies and delays. Emergency room services are also quite expensive in comparison to a family doctor visit and help drive up health care costs for everyone.

That is why urgent care centers have emerged as the ideal option for people who are unable to visit their regular physician but who need treatment immediately. Urgent care centers are purposely designed to bridge the gap between the traditional roles played by primary care doctors and emergency rooms.

When visiting an urgent care center is most appropriate

As you read above, urgent care centers are carefully planned to fill a much-needed role in the American health care system by providing quick access to competent care at a reasonable cost. However, they are not "one-size fits all" facilities, and it is helpful to know when visiting an urgent care center is in your best interest. Below are some medical conditions that can be well-addressed by an urgent care center:

  • High fever in adults without other symptoms such as seizures or hallucinations

  • Sprains and strains of muscles and other soft tissues

  • Vomiting and diarrhea that is persistent but not severe

  • Coughing and other respiratory symptoms that interfere with sleep and daily living

  • Cuts that may require sutures but aren't bleeding profusely

  • Sore throat

  • Earache

  • Migraine headache

  • Possible broken bone without open wound

  • Mild abdominal pain or cramping

When you should visit the emergency room

It is also important to know when an emergency room visit is in order, as these hospital facilities are able to provide the type of care needed for the severely ill or injured. Below are some conditions that warrant a trip to the emergency room:

  • Chest pain or tightness

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Sudden weakness or difficulty in moving

  • Mental incapacity or hallucinations

  • Seizures that have not previously occurred

  • Infants less than six months old with a fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit

  • Open fractures with bone protrusion

  • Profuse bleeding that cannot be easily stopped

  • Severe headache or neck pain

  • Persistent, severe pain in the abdomen, groin, or pelvic region

  • Vision problems or injuries to the eye