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Is it Urgent or Is it an Emergency? Breaking Down Your Healthcare Options

Emergency care

Accidents and illnesses unfortunately don’t come whenever it’s most convenient to you — if that was the case, we’d never be sick or hurt! But what happens when you have an accident or illness that needs to be taken care of fairly quickly and your doctor’s office is closed or you’re on vacation or not close to your doctor’s office? In such a situation, doing a search for “closest urgent care to my location” is a great idea. If you’re already operating from home base, you may not need to search for “closest urgent care to my location,” — you should just head there. Obviously, if it’s a life-threatening condition, you should head immediately to the emergency room, but something like a sudden, inexplicable rash or allergic reaction, a UTI, or strep throat can easily be handled at an urgent care facility.

What Is Considered Urgent Care?
Before searching, “closest urgent care to my location,” you probably need to understand what urgent care provides. Urgent care is considered a medical option when someone’s usual doctor is out of town or can’t provide an appointment soon enough. Alternately, if someone has an illness or injury during unusual hours, urgent care can be an alternate place of treatment, instead of doing the long wait in the emergency room.

In some cases, urgent care practitioners will need to refer patients to a specialist or direct them to an emergency department. They don’t practice surgery, don’t handle inpatients, or deal with chronic conditions. However, they can prescribe antibiotics, order labs, do some vaccinations, such as a flu shot, and handle minor trauma. In some cases, urgent care centers may be equipped to run X-rays, offer fracture care, and conduct physicals.

What are the Advantages of Visiting Urgent Care?
The Urgent Care Association of America estimates that around three million patients go to urgent care centers on a weekly basis — and as the need for physicians increases, it’s likely that urgent care centers will also see their numbers swell. It’s a great option if you need treatment outside of normal doctor’s office hours or if your preferred physician is away. And, if it’s an urgent matter — such as a fractured bone or an allergic reaction — visiting urgent care is significantly less expensive than going to the emergency room.

Most urgent care facilities take a wide range of health insurances as well, so you may wind up just having to pay the co-pay for your visit. Furthermore, around 60% of all urgent care centers boast a wait time of under 15 minutes before being seen by a physician and 65% have a physician on the premises at any given moment they’re open. Compare that to the complaints about waiting for hours in an emergency room.

Heading to urgent care also helps take the burden off emergency rooms — part of the reason the wait times are so long is simply because emergency rooms are overwhelmed with non-emergency ailments. Milliman conducted a private study that showed that between 44-65% of cases seen by the ER could have been handled by an urgent care clinic.

What’s The Difference Between Urgent Care and an ER Visit?

The main distinction between urgent care and an emergency room is in their names: urgent versus emergency. Though these terms are often used interchangeably, the difference is important. Any symptoms that might denote signs of a heart attack or stroke (such as persistent chest pain, sudden difficulty speaking, numbness, etc.,) should immediately be seen at the emergency room. Of course, any major trauma (broken bones, severe head, neck, or spinal injuries), big blood loss, or other wounds should also be seen at the emergency room.

Rashes, fevers, diarrhea or vomiting, sore throats, allergic reactions, and the like are all urgent, but not life-threatening, and could be treated at an urgent care center.

Next time you search for “closest urgent care to my location,” you hopefully have a better understanding of what urgent care can help you with — and why you should utilize it as a viable and flexible health care option.

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