Most Americans claim to drink in moderation but most emergency room cases are a result of motorists driving while intoxicated. Research shows among room patients admitted for injuries, 35% were intoxicated and 47% tested positive for alcohol. Of those intoxicated, 75% exhibited signs of chronic alcoholism. It explains the mad rush in many emergency rooms, sometimes leading to long waiting lines. This means if you just visited the hospital with an urgent health issue, you may need to wait for long hours before the doctor can attend to you. That is where urgent care clinics and walk-in clinics come into play. The facilities help patients get urgent medical help. We look at the difference between the two health care facilities.
What are Urgent Care Clinics?
These are same-day care clinics designed to handle a range of medical problems that need urgent medical attention but aren’t considered true emergencies. They are set up to attend to patients:
- Who need ambulatory care after hours
- Those visiting the hospital when the doctor’s office is booked out
- Patients with urgent health needs that are not life-threatening
Most such patients go to the ER to receive after-hours care for minor injuries without realizing the existence of urgent care clinics. A study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics found that among the patients who visited the emergency room were hardly admitted to the hospital. Up to 48 % went to the facilities because the doctor’s office was closed. Patients are served on a first come first serve basis receiving same-day health care delivery. Services offered include wound or burn repair, splinting and casting for broken bones, bronchitis or asthma treatment, laceration among others. The health care providers may also offer additional services like workers’ compensation and occupational medicine. Patients with symptoms like abdominal pain, fever without rash, wheezing or shortness of breath, vomiting, sprains, or strains are treated here.
When it comes to staffing, urgent care centers have physician assistants, nurse practitioners, medical assistants and have multiple examination rooms. You are also bound to find a full-time, on-site licensed physician who acts as a medical director. They are also well-endowed with important equipment like x-ray and phlebotomy machines. However, the facilities are not equipped with an operating room and equipment for performing invasive procedures like surgeries.
If the symptoms come on gradually or can already come up with a diagnosis, it would help if you called your primary care doctor to find out if you can schedule a same-day appointment. Your doctor is well-acquainted with your medical history including treatments that have worked previously and whether you’ve other medical conditions worth consideration. Keep in mind, the urgent care clinic can’t substitute your primary care physician; they only provide health services when you need care but can’t get in touch with your doctor.
What are Walk-In Clinics?
The clinics provide quick, less complicated health care to patients. Services offered include preventive vaccinations, physical examinations, and throat, or earache treatments. Generally, the clinics have an in-store model, hence pretty limited in space and staffed with physician assistants or nurse practitioners. As for the equipment, a walk-in clinic in Fort Lauderdale may be equipped with screening and testing machines. Most such clinics are not equipped to handle urgent health needs like lacerations or broken bones. Ailments addressed in these clinics include:
- Rashes without a fever
- Painful urination
- Eye redness, itchiness, or discharge
- Cough and congestion symptoms
- Mild flu-like symptoms
- Sore throat, ear pain
When to Go to the Emergency Room
Clearly, not all medical conditions can be treated in an urgent care center or walk-in clinic. Some ailments are considered emergencies as they need urgent or advanced treatments available in hospital settings. Such patients exhibit either of the following symptoms:
- Weakness or numbness on one side of the body
- Slurred speech
- Dislocated joints or broken bones
- Severe flu symptoms
- Severe cuts that need stitches
- Vaginal bleeding with pregnancy
- Serious burns, seizures, change in mental condition
If you have mild flu-like symptoms or abdominal pain, you don’t need to queue in the emergency room to get help. Enter a walk-in clinic or any of the urgent care clinics and you’ll be attended to within minutes.