If you are one of those people who only knows about doctors’ practices in hospitals, and not familiar or even heard about an Urgent Care Clinic, you’re in for a good read. We will be discussing these facilities so that the next time you try to book an appointment at your doctor’s and you are told that there is a waiting list or he is already fully booked, this will serve as another option for you.
In the US there is a category of walk-in clinics, which are also referred to as urgent care. Their focus is primarily on the delivery of ambulatory or outpatient care, this site has more on that. It includes diagnosis, intervention, treatment, and rehabilitation services. It sometimes includes the more advanced technological treatments that unfortunately for some hospitals may not be able to provide their patients.
Their names may defer depending on the country you are in, for instance, in the UK they are known as urgent treatment centers and in the US, they go by urgent care centers. Almost 70% of them in the US open at 8.00 am and are not necessarily open 24 hours a day. Most of them do close later in the evening though, almost 95% of them close around 7:00 pm in the evenings so those who work and can’t make earlier hours have this as an option.
Criteria on Which these Centers Are Based
Since the early days of the 1970s when the first care facilities were opened, two authorities in charge of the medical facilities in the US, i.e. the American Academy of Urgent Care Medicine (AAUCM) and the Urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA), established standards to which these places must uphold, both for the building and the physicians that work there. Found on the ACEP (American College of Emergency Physicians) website here: https://www.acep.org/patient-care/policy-statements/urgent-care-centers/ and a simplified version have also been included below:
- The main one is that they must accept walk-ins, even during business hours.
- They must be open 7 days a week.
- They should have several examination rooms.
- Only a licensed physician can operate as a medical doctor.
- They must have diagnostic equipment on-site at all times including x-ray and phlebotomy machines.
- Must always have communication lines between them and any hospitals in case of any transfers to have easy access.
- Must abide by strict ethical and business standards.
- They should contain a few procedure rooms in which various treatments can be done such as putting a cast on a patient’s leg or stitches and minor surgical procedures can be done.
What Do Urgent Care Facilities Treat?
These clinics or centers primarily treat illnesses or injuries that need immediate care, but that is not on the level of seriousness that would require emergency services or EDC (emergency department care). They are similar to the convenient care institutions in terms of the assortment of conditions treated and the facilities available on their site or in-house.
Almost half of the clinics in the US are owned by doctors and designed to keep the patient’s needs in mind. They offer a variety of services from musculoskeletal issues to physicals and employment-related drug tests and also have some of the state-of-the-art technology and equipment such as x-ray machines to help those in need.
Most of them, for example, the urgent care in Augusta, GA have their laboratories where besides the drug tests are done, they also test blood samples, urine samples, STD testing (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) such as Chlamydia, Herpes, Syphilis, HIV, and Gonorrhea. They also offer a variety of in-house lab services to their doctors and nurses. Those who need physical therapy can also attain this service here.
A lot of common illnesses are also treated here and not just the urgent ones, for instance, allergies, colds, burns, cases of flu, fractures, sprains, food poisoning, sore throats, earaches, fevers, school, and sport-related injuries, stitches, scrapes and minor cuts or bruises, and more.
All of the above are common everyday ailments that affect many people. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic hitting the world, a lot of the symptoms that affect people are similar to the flu-like or cold symptoms so people tend to get worried at the first sign of a runny nose and head straight for the hospitals, luckily now you have another option.