Urgent medical care is still a relatively new concept that many people may not understand. In the past, any medical issue that wasn’t deemed an emergency required an appointment. Anybody who has ever had to make an appointment with a doctor either at a clinic or at a hospital knows that this can be a time-consuming and altogether inconvenient hurtle. Many medical issues require immediate attention, even if they aren’t emergencies. It is for this reason why urgent care exists.
What is Urgent Care?
Urgent medical care is defined as immediate outpatient care for acute illness and injury. It doesn’t replace one’s primary physician, and it isn’t intended for life-threatening emergency care. However, it is an excellent alternative if your primary physician is unavailable or when illnesses and injuries require medical care outside of normal clinic hours. Wait times to see a medical professional for urgent care are also generally shorter than those experienced in the emergency room.
The Scope of Urgent Care
Urgent care staff members need to be able to treat a number of different acute medical problems, so there is significant overlap in the scope of urgent care and other kinds of direct patient care. An urgent care specialist will be able to address most non-emergency medical problems and fully care for them. If they are unable to address the issue themselves, they can consult other specialists or refer patients to them. Overall, urgent care has the most in common with family medical practices and emergency medicine, borrowing elements from both realms of care while still remaining its own specialty.
It should be noted that one thing that urgent care specialists cannot do is perform surgical procedures. They can perform wound repair and remove some skin lesions, but urgent care clinics are not equipped for invasive surgical procedures. They also do not provide inpatient care or provide ongoing treatments for chronic conditions. Urgent care is intended to treat acute medical issues; chronic issues or severe emergencies requiring surgery will still call for hospitalization.
Perhaps the best aspect of urgent medical care is its convenience. Most patients who need to visit an urgent care clinic are treated quickly. Urgent care patients are usually seen in a matter of minutes, while emergency room patients sometimes have to wait for several hours before they are seen. Of course, it’s always best to make an appointment with a primary physician to address various medical problems, but that isn’t always an option. Physicians go out of town or end up booked with appointments, making urgent care a necessity for many patients. Urgent care is also available outside of a clinic’s normal operating hours since acute medical issues can happen anytime during the day or night.
Urgent medical care has become a very popular option for people across the country. It can be used to address practically any acute medical issue, and it’s often far more convenient than a trip to the emergency room. The odds are in your favor that there is an urgent care center close to your home; do not hesitate to visit an urgent care center the next time you need medical care.