What is an Urgent Care Center? Are they Okay to Go to?

What is an Urgent Care center?
UC careAn urgent care center is a business that provides non urgent health care services. Many urgent cares have differing operating hours – some may be open 24/7 and others only until 6PM on some days of the week. It is a good idea to call before you go to any nearby UC, as they may have limited operating hours – unlike the ER.

Urgent care offices may refer patients to the ER if the severity of the condition is beyond the available experience of the personnel, or the services provided by the particular urgent care office. Bill Fay of Debt.org writes, “Care at urgent care centers is paid for on a fee-for-service basis. They usually accept most private health insurance plans, with co-pays averaging between $25-$50.”

The Cons of urgent care offices:
– Urgent cares may close as early as 6PM (see above example), so may not be a reasonable option for medical care, late into the evening.
– Close times and opening times vary greatly as well as schedules. You should call or visit their website to make sure they’re open before you go to an Urgent Care.
– Still may be too expensive for low income patients. Cost per procedure varies by business.

– Cannot treat complex conditions or serious injuries, so they may refer you to the ER if you have a more serious condition than they are able to treat.

The Pros urgent care offices:
– Faster-than-ER wait times and some are open 24/7.

– Treat minor injuries and illnesses.

– Faster-than-PCP wait times(you are seen the same day as opposed to being seen 1-3 weeks later at a PCP).
– Less expensive than ER*.
– Some insurers cover certain Urgent Cares and encourage you to use them for non urgent reasons.

Suggestions on selecting an Urgent Care office for non-urgent health care needs:
To ensure you have the best experience do review the Yelp reviews available online to help make a determination; take into consideration that one bad review does not necessarily make an office unworthy of a visit – but three or twelve do make a difference when there are no positive reviews.
– One bad review does not make a bad Urgent care.
– Many bad reviews and no positive reviews may indicate a poor office for health care needs.
– Overly positive reviews may not all be genuine, if the office is particularly new.
– Exercise a bit of careful scrutiny and ask family and friends for suggestions on options.

*ER visits MAY be covered by your insurer so may not cost you anything. Please speak to your insurance provider regarding going to the ER and if it will cost you anything. On the other hand, Urgent Cares NOT covered by your insurer will cost you out of pocket or some other amount. Please speak to your insurance provider.

Image credits: Tom Woodward, CC

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *