Urgent care facilities represent one of the fastest-growing segments of the American healthcare system; even though walk in health clinics only started popping up during the 1970s, there are now thousands of these emergency walk in clinics all across the country. Although healthcare experts note that there is still some confusion among the general public as to which medical illnesses and injuries warrant a visit to an emergency room and which ones can be treated at independent outpatient urgent care facilities (hint: any life-threatening illness or condition warrants a trip to the ER), a growing number of people are starting to realize that these facilities are beneficial for a multitude of reasons. For starters.
- Affordability: One of the biggest benefits of urgent care facilities is that they can provide immediate medical attention during extended hours (if not 24 hours a day) — similar to what you’d find at an emergency room — but patients pay just a fraction of conventional ER treatment costs. The average patient visit at a walk in health clinic costs about $150, while the average ER visit costs about $1,500. Additionally, many neighborhood health clinics accept most major insurance plans, so if you do have insurance, you probably won’t pay much more at an urgent care center than what you’d pay at a regular physician’s office.
- Optional appointments: Although walk in health clinics are based on the goal to provide emergency medical care when there isn’t time for the patient to make an appointment, many urgent care facilities do allow patients to make appointments, either at the last minute or weeks in advance. This is especially convenient for services like vaccinations and routine physicals that aren’t anticipated to take much time, and offering treatment on a walk in basis and with pre-scheduled appointments allows urgent care centers to offer a variety of services.
- Shorter wait times: Surprisingly, even though urgent care clinics typically handle a lot of walk in cases, the average wait time for patients at these facilities is substantially shorter than at a traditional hospital ER. Regardless of whether they’re seeking emergency treatment for a small fracture or just need to have an annual sports/school physical, the majority of urgent care patients receive treatment within an hour of arriving (unlike ER patients, who often spend hours on end just to get a simple diagnosis and treatment).
It’s important to remember that the services provided and the hours of operation are different for each community health clinic, it’s definitely worth your time to do some research on your nearest urgent care clinic to find out what services are available to you.