If you are sick and need care right way, but it's after normal office hours or your primary care doctor is overwhelmed with appointments, you do have options. Theses options include walk-in health services like clinics and urgent care centers. Services offered at these facilities differ, so it's a good idea to know what each ones offers before visiting a facility.
Retail Walk In Clinics
Retail walk in clinics are those situated in a retail store or pharmacy. These clinics are designed to to be affordable and efficient, so they don't treat complex health issues. People suffering with colds, flues, earaches, minor cuts and rashes, and other acute health issues. They may also offer immunizations, annual or work-related physical exams, and drug testing.
Retail clinics hire nurse practitioners to diagnose an illness and prescribe medications, which patients can most likely pickup on their way out of the clinic. The services offered and hours of operation for these clinics can vary by location, but patients can call and inquire about hours and services. Billing options may vary as well. Some may take only cash or credit cards, instead of billing your insurance company.
Urgent Care Walk In Clinics
Urgent care clinics differ from retail clinics in the types of services offered. Urgent clinics have at least one doctor on staff. These stand-alone clinics offer services for more complex health issues. They can take x-rays and can handle broken bones, burns, and other non-life threatening conditions.
So conditions that urgent care handles that retail clinics cannot include:
- Chest Pain
- Abdominal pain and nausea in small children
- Eye trauma
- Automobile accident injuries
Urgent care centers bill your health insurance provider for your. However, you are expected to pay your copay. If you don't have health insurance, you are expected to pay the full balance at the time of your visit.
Walk In Emergency Rooms
Unlike other walk in clinics, the emergency room of a local hospital can handle life-threatening health issues, such as heart attacks, difficulty breathing, and other emergency situations. Emergency rooms are open 24 hours a day, year-round and have access to the most advanced medical equipment to accurately diagnose and treat a broad range of health conditions.
Wait times in emergency rooms can be long, but these facilities do take patients based on severity of the illness. Patient also have access to nurses, doctors, and surgeons. The cost of an emergency room visit is more than other retail and urgent care facilities, but most health insurance policies pay for true emergency visits. Emergency rooms also take patients, even if they do not have the ability the pay at the time of service.
Knowing the differences between these facilities can help you decide which one is best based on your illness and urgency medical treatment. You can also call your doctor, and he or she may direct you to the best facility for you if a doctor cannot see you right away.