Before urgent care clinics, the emergency rooms of most hospitals were used as de facto bypass systems for those who couldn’t get to a regular doctor’s office. Usually, this was because many people didn’t have any money or insurance to cover a regular doctor’s visit, and emergency rooms by nature cannot refuse patients regardless of their ability to pay. Only 20% of the patients were actually sick enough to be admitted. The rest were stabilized quickly and released within a matter of hours. And, though this way of bypassing a typical doctor’s office visit was convenient, it was also tying up valuable resources needed for true emergencies.
Emergency rooms are meant for patients who have a life threatening condition requiring immediate medical care, such as a person who is having a heart attack. They must have fast, accurate lab test results and highly skilled doctors and nurses who can handle any kind of medical situation. This raises the rates up significantly higher than in a non-emergency treatment cente. Often, patients pay several times the amount for a visit there than they would anywhere else. Understandably so, considering the high level of specialization involved for emergency room staff and the high stakes involved.
Urgent care clinics have become extremely popular in recent years, due to their similarity to the emergency room, but without the expensive cost. Many of them are open 24 hours a day, or they at least have extended hours that run late into the evening. No appointment is needed, so anyone can walk in at their convenience to get medical attention. This is especially helpful for those with busy schedules who can’t get in to see their regular doctors. Lab tests are still done quickly, and most people can get in and out within an hour. Urgent care clinics also take insurance, which is especially helpful with all of the new changes relating to Obamacare that are taking place.
Urgent care clinics can treat most non-emergency medical conditions that require fast help without the wait. However, they are not a substitute for treatment with a regular physician. It is important that anyone with a chronic illness causing them to need medical help on a regular basis follow up with their doctor to be sure that their condition is being treated properly.