Whether you’re the most accident prone daredevil, or a sure-footed mountain goat, injuries can happen to anybody. A slippery rock, a rusty nail hidden in the grass, and before you know it, you find yourself in need of urgent medical care. Although for many of us, going to the emergency room might be your first knee-jerk response, urgent care facilities can often be a faster and more affordable option.
Priority one—evaluate whether the injury is immediately life-threatening. Emergencies such as heart-attack, head trauma, or arterial bleeding require the highest levels of response, and should be taken to an emergency room immediately. Since the emergency room will prioritize the most life-threatening conditions over less urgent injuries, a patient in a life-threatening situation will be seen quickly at the ER.
By the same logic, a person with a non-life threatening condition, such as a sprained ankle or painful toothache, will often wait many hours in the emergency room while the life-threatening cases get first priority. In those cases, a local urgent care facility is often faster and more cost-effective choice. Unfortunately, many people don’t know when or how to find urgent care facilities.
In most communities, it’s easy to find urgent care. Many facilities (66%) are open before 9:00 am on weekdays, nearly half (45.7%) are open Saturdays and just over a third (31%) are open Sundays, and many offer 24 hour urgent care. That gives you plenty of options, even if you need care outside of normal doctor’s hours. Depending on the size of your community, there may be several urgent care facilities in your area, making it easier to find urgent care than making a trip to the hospital.
While it’s often easier to find urgent care facilities, the wait times are also typically shorter than an emergency room. In an urgent care facility, patients are seen on a first-come, first-served basis, and patients with non-life-threatening conditions will typically receive faster care than they would in the ER. About 80% of all patients receive care in 60 minutes or less, and 57% of patients receive care within 15 minutes or less, according to a survey by the Urgent Care Association of America.
There’s a wide variety of urgent care facilities, offering many different levels of care. Up to 80% (four out of five) are equipped to treat fractures, and many specialize in pediatric urgent care or other types of advanced urgent care. The facility’s website will typically list the types of patients and injuries covered.
Next time you or a loved one sustains an injury that is not life-threatening, consider an urgent care facility over the emergency room. It’s easy to find urgent care, the wait times are typically short, and they can treat a wide variety of conditions. They’ll have you patched up and back on your feet in no time!