Finding quick medical attention can be a confusing and stressful process. Emergency room waits are often long, especially for matters that require attention but that don’t necessarily constitute emergencies. Meanwhile, doctor’s office hours can be inconvenient, and appointments can take weeks or months. Urgent care facilities offer an alternative to emergency room care that has the walk in convenience of emergency rooms without as long of a wait.
The purpose of urgent cares is to provide medical attention for conditions that do not necessarily warrant emergency room visits, but that do require immediate attention. Such conditions might include cuts and abrasions, cold and flu symptoms, minor abdominal pain or gastrointestinal distress, urinary tract infections, and rashes. Patients with these types of concerns have, in the past, had to either visit an emergency room and wait behind patients with more life threatening conditions, or wait to visit a physician’s office. Because rapid treatment is critical for the prevention of infection or further injury, many patients were forced to go to emergency rooms where patients with more serious conditions were given priority, resulting in congested waiting areas and long wait times. Urgent cares are designed to ease that burden on emergency rooms.
Urgent medical care facilities are equally qualified to care for patients, often employing a variety of medical personnel. More than half of all urgent care providers are staffed by physicians, nurse practitioners, or physician’s assistants and many have a minimum of one physician on site at any given time. Therefore, they are able to write prescriptions, make referrals, and treat any medical concern. Still, patients are often asked to follow up with their primary care physicians after visiting urgent cares. Since 2009, certification has been available for urgent care centers through the Urgent Care Association of America, helping consumers to feel more comfortable visiting urgent care centers and to find qualified urgent care facilities.
Urgent cares represent a sort of a win win for the medical field and for patients. Emergency rooms can be devoted solely to the treatment of life threatening conditions, and patients with urgent non emergencies can be seen quickly by a qualified medical professional.