Certain childhood illnesses are just an inevitable part of growing up, and there will most certainly be times when your child will need to see a doctor right away. A visit to your local pediatric urgent care clinic makes sense for several reasons:
1. Convenience. Many towns offer urgent care nearby and have pediatricians on-call seven days a week – which is ideal for patients who have no access to their primary care doctors in the evenings or weekends. When searching for a walk-in clinic that offers pediatric urgent care, remember to check their hours of operation. Many will stay open until 9 p.m. or later, with no appointment necessary.
2. Need. According to the Urgent Care Association of America, an estimated 3 million patients visit an urgent care (UC) clinic each week. With nearly 9,300 in the United States and run by more than 20,000 physicians, most of these clinics expanded their space to better facilitate the increasing number of patients every year.
3. Care. What is considered urgent care for kids includes common illnesses like the common cold, earaches, and fever. According to Harvard Health Publishing, some children get as many as 12 colds a year. With an average of seven exam rooms, clinics that offer pediatric urgent care are equipped to handle a larger patient volume. Roughly 60% of all urgent care centers have a wait time of less than 15 minutes to see a physician or mid-level provider, and 65% have a physician on-site at all times.
4. Cost. An important factor for families to consider, especially those with children who need more frequent, non-critical medical attention, is how much an urgent care visit is compared to an emergency room visit.
According to Dr. Franz Ritucci, President of the American Academy of Urgent Care Medicine, the average urgent care visit ranges from $50 to $150, with 70% of patients only charged a health insurance co-pay. Average emergency room visits can vary widely, but the National Institutes of Health (NIH) study put the median cost at well over $1000, while other estimates show a cost higher than $2100.
Another major factor that many consumers may not be aware of is the Prudent Layperson Standard (PLS), which states: “Any medical or behavioral condition that would lead a prudent layperson, possessing an average knowledge of medicine and health, to believe that the severity of their condition would result in death or harm to a physical organ.” Under PLS, Insurance companies have been known to deny coverage to patients who visited an emergency room for non-urgent / non-life-threatening treatments such as coughs, colds, or a sprained ankle. In other words, if they decide you could have just as easily received treatment at an urgent care center, they can deny coverage.