5 Urgent Care Myths Debunked

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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.

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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.

Video Discussion

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.

Why Are You Sleepy?

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Do you wake up feeling tired? Have a strong urge to sleep during the day? Become drowsy while driving? Fall asleep while watching TV or a movie? Snore? Does your snoring keep your partner awake? Do you suddenly wake up during the night gasping for air or with a dry mouth?

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, you might have “obstructive sleep apnea” or OSA. This is a condition in which your airway becomes obstructed during sleep causing you to stop breathing normally. Because this happens while you sleep, you probably don’t know that you have OSA at all.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?

OSA occurs when your muscles relax and allow the soft palate and tongue to close off your airway. This causes you to stop breathing several times during the night for up to 10 seconds or longer and produces a drop in the supply of oxygen to your brain. This cycle can be repeated 30 times or more each hour, all night. No wonder you wake up tired!

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OSA is serious and, if untreated, can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, depression, lack of sexual desire, heart disease, heart attack, dementia, or even stroke. OSA deprivers you of deep, restorative sleep (commonly referred to as REM or “rapid eye movement” sleep) so necessary for good health.

Symptoms of OSA

Symptoms of OSA range from chronic fatigue or sleepiness during the day to snoring and consciously disrupted sleep at night. Common symptoms include

·      Feeling tired or exhausted upon awaking in the morning

·      Frequent drowsiness when engaged in normal activity during the day (driving while drowsy is a major cause of traffic accidents)

·      Depression or changes in mood during the day

·      Loud and frequent snoring that sometimes awakens your partner

·      Waking up while gasping for breath or choking

·      Dry mouth or morning headache

OSA is also associated with high blood pressure, lower sex drive, and weight gain.

Men suffer from OSA at 2 to 3 times the rate for women. Persons who are 30 or more pounds overweight or who have thick necks (17 inches or more in circumference) are susceptible to OSA because being overweight enlarges the soft tissue in the back of the throat.

OSA can afflict persons of any age, but it usually peaks between ages 40 and 60. Smokers experience sleep apnea at 3 times the rate for non-smokers.

A large majority of persons are unaware of having OSA and do not seek treatment for it. The cost to society of not treating OSA is significant since it results in traffic accidents, stroke, and heart attacks. That’s why truck drivers and others who need a commercial driver’s license are required to be screened and treated for OSA.

What Should You Do?

If you have trouble sleeping or have any of the above symptoms, you should be checked by your health care provider. At Kathy’s Urgent Care, we can help determine an appropriate course of action to cope with your individual situation.

Above all, do not self-medicate with alcohol or sleeping pills. Alcohol relaxes the muscles that control the soft tissue around your throat, making your problem worse. And most sleeping pills contain muscle relaxants that have the same effect. Using either will likely make your problem worse.

Depending on how severe your problem appears, we can recommend at-home testing kits or refer you to a sleep testing facility as needed. The home kits cost about $250, and some vendors accept insurance payment. Sleep testing facilities are more expensive and are usually covered, at least partially, by health insurance plans. Either route can give us the information needed to follow up.

While you might need assistive measures—CPAP or EPAP devices, dental appliances, etc.—quite often you can achieve good results simply by losing weight. Losing weight often controls snoring and can reduce or eliminate sleep apnea over time. Doing so, however, takes a while and can be difficult to achieve. We have learned that medically supervised weight control programs and changes in lifestyle are most effective in achieving permanent improvement. In most cases, surgery should be considered a last resort.

OSA can lead to very serious health issues and even cause death. Get checked by your health care provider and decide on a weight loss program or other measures to relieve your symptoms. Don’t put this off!

Remember that at Kathy’s Urgent Care, we can help with this and related health problems.

If you’ve had experience with OSA and various treatment options or if you have questions or opinions about OSA, please leave a comment below.

America’s Growing Waistline

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America’s collective waistline has been growing for several decades. And that’s causing problems for most of us in terms of poor health and the higher cost of coping with obesity-related diseases and conditions.

Recall the conversations from your latest high school or college reunion.

“Joe sure has put on weight since we played basketball together!”

“I wouldn’t have recognized Rebecca outside of this party. She was always so slender.”

Among our relatives, we nag one another and ourselves about how many pounds we’ve put on. And we moan about how hard it is to lose the weight, how much we need to get more exercise, and so on.

Was it always this way? Yes . . . and no.

How We Got Here

The early Greek physician, Galen (129-210 C.E.), tried to help his overweight patients by urging them to eat more slimming foods such as greens and garlic. He held that appetite was controlled by the liver and that a balance in “humours” needed to be restored.

During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, ballads, plays, and literary works often poked fun at those who were considered fat. But such concern with weight has had its ups and downs throughout history and in various cultures.

When food was scarce, consuming large quantities of food whenever possible led to the storing of body fat as a hedge against leaner days. People even regarded being overweight as a sign of prosperity when food was scarce for most of the population.

Of course, one could go too far in that direction and become guilty of gluttony—one of the seven deadly sins according to Christianity. And when food became more plentiful, gluttony was an obvious sign of selfishness. Being overweight carried a stigma of moral condemnation.

As food production became more reliable in Europe and North America in the 19th and 20th centuries, to a large extent because of mechanized farming, average intake of calories gradually increased for most people.

Historians have now determined that the Body Mass Index (BMI) for students at West Point during the 19th century averaged only 20.5. For persons born between World War I and World War II, however, a surge occurred that pushed the average BMI to about 22.4. BMI averages have ballooned in the decades since then, except for a minor dip in the trend during the Great Depression (another time of food scarcity).

Many factors have worked together to accelerate the trend toward our current situation where about 70% of Americans are considered clinically overweight or obese. In addition to more reliable availability of food, these factors include labor-saving devices and technology at work and in the home, a more sedentary lifestyle for millions, and a fast-food and processed food industry that has pumped unneeded sugar, carbohydrates, and saturated fats into the American diet at the expense of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Our Obesity Epidemic

Conduct an Internet search for “obesity” and you will find that we are now confronting an “obesity epidemic” (see the CDC video, The Obesity Epidemic).

This means that according to official public policy for government agencies and professional associations such as the AMA, obesity is considered a medical condition.

The CDC calculates overweight and obesity BMI levels according to the following criteria:

  • If your BMI is less than 18.5, it falls within the underweight range.
  • If your BMI is 18.5 to <25, it falls within the normal range.
  • If your BMI is 25.0 to <30, it falls within the overweight range.
  • If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, it falls within the obese range.

Being overweight or obese now has recognized consequences, a variety of causes, and methods of treatment. We will consider these topics in later posts, but for now we’ll briefly mention the general significance of this condition for our society.

In an important 2015 article, “How Obesity Became a Disease,” for The Atlantic, Harriet Brown reports that the AMA’s decision in 2013—to “recognize obesity as a disease state” that includes several characteristics requiring many different approaches to treatment—was not without controversy.

In fact, the AMA’s Committee on Science and Public Health advised against such a step. In their view, obesity does not resemble other diseases since it has no symptoms and is not always harmful (as in times of famine).

“[T]he committee worried that medicalizing obesity could potentially hurt patients, creating even more stigma around weight and pushing people into unnecessary—and ultimately useless—‘treatments.’”

By voice vote, the AMA membership decided otherwise. Such a decision promotes greater standardization in treatment options and more advanced research into how society can cope with the problems resulting from an overweight and obese population.

The situation is indeed dire. Overweight and obese persons are at much higher risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and deprivation, and other health problems. Childhood obesity is also increasing and clearly contributes to higher rates of adult obesity.

While treatments also contribute to much higher expenditures for health care, many of the costs to society are indirect or hidden. Transporting overweight persons by car takes more gasoline, while buses and trains need to be refitted to accommodate heavier riders. Even loss of productivity at work represents a significant economic cost.

Higher medical and other costs explain why the increasing number of overweight and obese persons has become such an urgent public and health care issue. In future posts, we’ll address how health care professionals can help individuals and society to cope.

In the meantime, feel free to add your own comments and observations. To add or view comments, click on the title of this article above.