Does this scenario sound familiar?
Your alarm goes off and you instantly realize you feel awful. The scratchy throat from the night before turned into something much bigger, and now your head throbs, your ears ache and you have chills from head to toe.
But life, being what it is, will not allow you to have a sick day today, because you have an important meeting with a client, and you signed up months ago to be one of the parents for your kid’s field trip to the science museum. Your doctor has no appointments today and even if he did, you don’t have the time to wait in his office for a half hour or more to be seen.
Then you remember the urgent care clinic around the corner from your office and wonder if you should stop in there on your lunch hour. It’s not like you need medical care urgently, you haven’t broken a bone or anything, but you wonder if urgent care is simply a faster and cheaper way to see a doctor than going to your primary care doctor?
Urgent Care vs. Primary Care – When and Why
There’s no denying that your primary care doctor plays a very important role in your long-term health. He knows your medical history, conditions you suffer from or have suffered from, and medications you’re currently taking and are allergic to. He also has access to your medical records and entire medical history. Because of this, he can make education decisions when you see him with symptoms.
Equally important is the fact that your PCP acts like a home base for illness and chronic condition management and can advise you on your path toward wellness. This consistency and the relationship you’ve built are very important, and not necessarily something you will get at an urgent care clinic.
But that’s okay because that is not why urgent care clinics were created. They were created to act as a bridge between your primary care doctor and an emergency room. While they don’t handle life-threatening conditions – that’s what an ER is for – they are there to assist people who need medical attention but cannot wait for a family doctor appointment.
Say you break your wrist over the weekend – there is no need for you to wait until the following week to see your physician, but there’s also no need for you to go to an ER with a non-life-threatening issue either (Deciding Where to Go). That bill alone will give you a heart attack, but you’ll pay only a fraction of the price at an urgent care clinic.
Because urgent care clinics are there for you when you need them, they are open 7 days a week with extended hours, and some are even open 24/7. You are also not required to make an appointment but can just walk right in and be treated.
Medical Conditions Handled by PCPs and Urgent Care
There is still a lot of confusion when it comes to what types of medical issues urgent care clinics can handle. Basically, whatever conditions your primary care physicians can handle, a walk-in clinic can handle as well.
Urgent care is great when you’re just not feeling well or need a set of vaccinations for an upcoming trip, or when you need lab tests or x-rays. Physical exams for sports, pediatrics, and drug screenings, these are also services that are usually covered by both urgent care clinics and PCPs. While an urgent care clinic will not necessarily have your full medical history, or know of past illnesses like your primary care doctor, they can treat you when your own doctor cannot.
Cost Differences Between Urgent Care Clinics and Primary Care Doctors
Before we discuss actual costs, urgent care clinics have something going for them and that is convenience. They are typically located in commercial centers, making it easy to stop in while running errands. And the fact that you never need an appointment to be seen is also a huge bonus, as is the average wait time, which is generally 15-20 minutes.
But convenience isn‘t the only reason more Americans are heading to urgent care centers, cost is another big driver. Consider that a visit to a primary care physician will typically cost between $100 and $300, but a visit to the average urgent care clinic will costs only $50 – $150.
It’s important to mention that while you know your doctor accepts your particular insurance plan, you should check with your local care clinic to see which one works with your plan as well. Otherwise you may discover a few months down the road that you paid more out-of-pocket for a non-urgent matter.
Urgent Way accepts most insurance plans, including worker’s compensation, private insurance, Medicaid and Medicare. We also welcome those without insurance and do our best to offer the most affordable rates and payment options.
The bottom line is, if you need care from someone who knows your medical history and can help you manage your health long-term, best to schedule an appointment with your primary doctor. But if you have an urgent need for care after hours, or simply need vaccinations but don’t want to wait three weeks until your doctor can see you, an urgent care clinic is a great option.
Urgent Way is committed to providing quality and affordable care to our neighbors. We understand that immediate access is important and are open 365 days a year.
With locations in Hempstead, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Hicksville, and the Bronx, we are always there when you need us the most.
Feel free to stop into any one of our locations, or call and speak with one of our staff.