Thursday, October 24, 2019

5 Things You Need to Know Before You Visit an Urgent Care Facility

When you or someone you care about is sick, hurt or in need of medical attention, having to make a split-second decision about which medical facility is most appropriate isn’t the best course of action. But many people are caught off guard, especially when it comes to deciding whether to visit an urgent care facility or the nearest hospital emergency room.

According to Community Health 1st ER, an urgent care in Deer Park, TX, “The differences are often confusing, and many patients are not aware that there are differences at all. However, there are a few important differences to consider when choosing between hospital ERs and urgent care clinics near you.” Here are a few things you need to know about urgent care facilities before you visit one.

1. Most Centers are Walk-In

Because most urgent care centers do not take appointments and function as walk-in centers,  your wait time can vary from 20 minutes to much longer, depending on the number of people who are ahead of you. However, some clinics do allow appointments or online check-in. Online check-in lets you fill in certain paperwork and prepare your spot in line, which can reduce your wait time drastically. Just to be safe, call ahead and find out if the urgent care clinic you’re thinking about visiting has an online check in or make appointments.

2. What to Bring

Remember this isn’t your typical doctor’s office that has all of your or your child’s records. Make sure you bring your ID. You will need your insurance card and funding for your copay or payment. Also, make sure to bring the names and dosages of any medicines you take. A list of medical diagnoses and surgeries is important too. Your primary care doctor’s name and contact information are important to have as well. And finally, if you are bringing a child who is a minor, who is not your child, you’ll need a parental authorization form.

3. When to Go

Of course, you can go to an urgent care clinic any time it is open. However, there are going to be times that it is much busier than others. Weekends, holidays, evenings and any other times when doctors' offices are not open are times that urgent care clinics are busiest. If you need urgent care but can wait just a bit, you might see a health care provider faster by calling the center first and finding out the wait time and whether you can be put on a waiting list.

4. A Doctor May Not Treat You

It is important to know before you go to an urgent care center that you might not be treated by a doctor. Although most centers do have a staff physician, they also have physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners who see and treat patients for a variety of conditions. Regardless of whether you see a doctor, a physician's assistant or nurse practitioner, you will always be told to follow up with your primary care physician.

5. You Can Get Treated for Things You May Not Think You Can

Urgent care centers have the ability to deal with lacerations, sprains, dislocations, and fractures. Almost all centers have x-ray machines and can determine the severity of your injury. However, centers do vary in their ability to handle these type of injuries, so it is best to call ahead. Also, if you are suffering from constant severe pain of a large, open gash, the ER is the place for you.

Urgent care centers also offer drug and alcohol screening. Typically, they offer blood or urine screening, but some test hair as well. If you need a drug and alcohol screening for work or another reason, check to see which kind of screening is accepted. You will also have to check with the urgent care center for the turnaround time.

Urgent care clinics can also test you for sexually transmitted diseases with a turnaround time of one to two days. They can check for:
  • HIV or AIDS
  • Chlamydia
  • Genital herpes (if you have symptoms)
  • Gonorrhea
  • Syphilis
  • Hepatitis
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
Regular testing for sexually transmitted diseases is part of a healthy lifestyle -- not just something done out of fear.

Also, urgent care clinics can perform regular physicals and routine health screenings. It can take weeks to get an appointment with your doctor for your yearly physical, but an urgent care clinic can do routine physicals, as well as sports physicals, gynecological exams and breast exams. It can also run lab work to check for anemia, cholesterol, diabetes, as well as confirm pregnancy.

If you are in an urgent care for your physical, you can also go ahead and check and see if your immunizations are up to date.

Is an Urgent Care Facility Right for You?

Now that you know more about what to expect from an urgent care center, you’ll be better prepared to decide in advance whether an urgent care facility is the right choice for you.

This is a guest blog entry.

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