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Tips From a Doc: How to Choose Between Urgent Care Clinic and Hospital Visit

November 10, 2015
urgent care clinic

The rising costs of healthcare have spurred monumental changes in this country. Everything from policy changes, like the introduction of Obamacare, to technological ones, like the advent of telehealth services. Another one of the modern trends in medicine today is that of the urgent care clinic.

There are over 6,800 walk in clinics or urgent care facilities in the United States that see an estimated three million patients every week. How do you know when a trip to the emergency room or hospital is necessary and when urgent care clinics will suffice? Here are a few tips from real doctors to help, according to a recent story from the South Dakota-area

Dr. David Klocke is the Rapid City Regional Chief Medical Officer and spoke to the local news site about when to know when you should go to an urgent care center or hospital room. According to him, if you’re having any sort of issue with a vital organ, like the heart, head, or lungs you should bypass the urgent care clinic and go directly to an emergency room.

“That’s what ERs are really made for, if you lose consciousness, or you have any kind of paralysis, any chest pain, or trouble breathing, or severe bleeding that doesn’t stop when pressure is applied, you should head to the emergency room,” Klocke said. “It’s difficult for individuals who aren’t medically trained to know for sure.”

The great thing about walk in medical clinics is that as long as it’s not life-threatening, basically anything else can be sufficiently treated there. Broken bones, lacerations, sprained muscles, and minor illnesses are all things that these places were made to treat.

Not only will your medical bill be less on average by choosing one of these facilities, but your wait will probably be a fraction of the time. About 57% of patients wait 15 minutes or less to be seen, and approximately 80% of all visits are done in 60 minutes or less, according to The Urgent Care Association of America.

One of the best benefits these urgent care clinics provide is to hospitals. By having a place where people can go to treat a vast majority of ailments, that frees their waiting and emergency rooms up for the more serious cases. The only problem is some people are so conditioned to use hospital services it can be hard to get them out of that mindset.

“We didn’t always have urgent care clinics. It’s from decades of being in that habit,” Klocke said, but he also had one last bit of advice. “If you’re unsure, I would still say go to an emergency room.”