Have you noticed? Delivery of health care services is changing! When trying get the health care you deserve, when you need it, and at affordable cost, you might be confused by all the options, including urgent care. Myths about urgent care have gone viral, preventing many folks from choosing the best alternative. As you decide what’s best for you and your family, don’t be hoodwinked by these common misunderstandings.
Myth #1. Urgent Care and Emergency Room Care Are the Same
While it is true that urgent care centers and hospital emergency departments both treat acute or urgent injuries and illnesses, persons who suffer from a truly life-threatening condition should go to an emergency room or call 911.
Urgent care centers treat most non-life-threatening injuries and illnesses, including broken bones, sprains, cuts, strep throat, bronchitis, allergic reactions, eye and ear infections, low back pain, headaches, nausea, and many more. Waiting times are nearly always shorter and cost is lower than with ERs.
The following chart of symptoms can help you decide where to get the most appropriate care.
Myth #2. Urgent Care Staff Are Less Qualified
Be assured that all clinical staff at urgent care centers receive the same training as clinical staff in hospitals and family practices. A supervising physician is always present or on call. Other providers such as physician assistants (PAs), advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), and medical assistants (MAs) must be credentialed and licensed according to state law.
Some urgent care centers also provide specialized clinical services such as orthopedic or pediatric care. When necessary, urgent care centers will refer patients to an appropriate specialist and will often arrange an appointment for a patient more quickly.
Myth #3. Urgent Care Costs More
In nearly all cases, treatment at an urgent care center costs less than at other locations. Because emergency departments must cover high overhead costs for sophisticated equipment and 24-hour staff, charges for ER treatment can be very high. This can be a problem especially if your health insurance plan carries a high deductible amount.
Urgent care centers accept most insurance coverage. Even if your plan carries a high deductible, your insurance will generally lower your out-of-pocket cost. If you have no insurance or choose not to use it, your urgent care center will usually charge a modest flat fee for treatment.
Bottom line: Urgent care fees are nearly always lower than emergency department or family practice fees.
Myth #4. Urgent Care Centers Only Treat Minor Ailments
While urgent care centers do treat minor ailments, the term “urgent care” can be misleading. Most urgent care centers also offer preventative health care such as screenings for disease, general physical examinations, and vaccinations (flu, MMR, Hepatitis, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Pneumonia, Polio, etc.).
Physical exams are offered for immigration, employment (DOT/CDL exams, drug testing, etc.), and school or sports requirements. They also provide testing and treatment for STDs.
Urgent care centers usually have X-ray equipment and laboratories on site and can dispense routine medications.
Myth #5. Urgent Care Centers Don’t Interact with Other Health Care Providers
If you are concerned that your primary care physician won’t be informed about your urgent care visit, relax. Urgent care providers communicate regularly with family physicians, specialists, and hospitals. A complete record of your visit will be available to other providers as needed.
If there is any question about the nature of your care, the urgent care provider can contact your regular physician or specialist for consultation.
You can also rest assured that your health care privacy will be protected as required by federal and state law. Only other providers and your health insurance carrier(s) will have access to your records if necessary and as authorized by you.
We are now posting live video discussions of important health care topics on Facebook and YouTube. To learn more about urgent care from Dr. Thomas Brown, check out the recent video on Facebook in which he announces the opening of a third Kathy’s Urgent Care clinic in Berlin, Connecticut. Learn why urgent care is expanding and how it can serve you and your family.