Rising health insurance costs combined with job losses from the recent recession have left increasing numbers of individuals and families without health insurance. Even people who do have insurance through an employer or private policy are finding their plans cover fewer and fewer services. As a result, a growing number of people are paying for a large percentage of their healthcare out-of-pocket. Urgent care medical facilities are a great way for patients of all ages to receive lower-cost medical care for many standard procedures, including cheap X-rays.
Why Choose Urgent Care?
Urgent care centers offer many of the services found at a hospital emergency room or trauma center, such as cheap X-rays, without the wait and high cost. Urgent care centers are able to provide a wide range of services at a lower cost because they specialize in only treating minor injuries and illnesses and do not have to maintain a hospital staff and facilities. Urgent care centers generally have a shorter wait time than an emergency room, and some even allow patients to contact the center and receive a notification by email or text when a room is available, allowing them to wait at home instead of in a crowded waiting room.
Are X-Rays Available At All Urgent Care Facilities?
Until recently, the specific services offered by clinics calling themselves “urgent care centers” varied greatly. In 2009, guidelines issued by the Urgent Care Association of America, a professional organization of urgent care physicians, created a basic roadmap for urgent care. Since the issuance of these guidelines, a facility must offer X-rays and other standard medical services to use the description “urgent care” in the name.
What Other Services Are Available At Urgent Care Centers?
Most urgent care facilities are equipped to care for patients of all ages, and many have a pharmacy onsite. In addition to X-rays, standard services offered by urgent care facilities include:
• Diagnosis of minor illnesses and infections
• Prescribing medication
• Blood drawing
• Laboratory services
• Treatment of minor injuries, including burns, sprains and strains
• Stitches and sutures
• Treatment of simple bone fractures
Why Is Care Cheaper at an Urgent Care Center?
Thanks to lower overhead, even specialized services such as X-rays are much cheaper at an urgent care center than at an emergency room. Seeking treatment for a minor injury at an urgent care center allows a quick determination regarding the seriousness of an injury. In many cases, an X-ray reveals that an injury is not as serious as it first appears. Minor injuries can be treated at the urgent care facility itself, eliminating the need to seek more expensive treatment routes. If an X-ray does indicate a more serious injury, the urgent care center can provide a referral to a specialist or hospital to help a patient receive the necessary care. In addition to saving money, visiting an urgent care center rather than a hospital cuts down on lost time from work and lost productivity for the patient, as well as reserving the services of hospital emergency rooms for patients with severe injuries and life-threatening conditions.
Urgent care centers were developed by medical professionals who recognized the need for a level of service between the basic, preventive care and treatment provided by a doctor’s office and the advanced level of care provided by a hospital. Urgent care clinics are an excellent way for the uninsured, the minimally insured and even patients with full insurance to receive a range of healthcare services quickly and less expensively.