What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Urgent Care Clinics?

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When you consider whether to go to an urgent care clinic to care for your health needs, here is an overview of the advantages and disadvantages to weigh in your decision. This will provide information to determine if attending an Urgent Care Clinic is a good decision for you and your family.


What is an Urgent Care Clinic?

Across the U.S. are urgent care clinics staffed by physicians that offer walk-in services. They focus on helping people with acute illnesses and injuries. Common cases at urgent care clinics are minor burns, sprains, and broken bones.

They differ from retail clinics, such as Minute Clinics, which treat common illnesses, like strep throat, that are not acute in nature. Urgent care clinics are beyond the scope of retail clinics but are not designed to provide life-saving measures.


Urgent Care Clinics: The Advantages

medical_billing_advocate-84A primary advantage for this type of clinic is that you are attended to on a walk-in basis. This means there is no appointment needed, which is great when you do not plan ahead or if it is a sudden health issue that arises and causes you concern.

As well, urgent care centers have flexible hours. They are open weekdays, during the day and into the evening, as well as weekends. When you have a busy schedule between juggling work and family, it is convenient to be able to head to the clinic on a lunch hour or after dinner time.

In addition, if it is the weekend, when your doctor’s office is closed, or if your doctor is already fully booked, it’s comforting to know you do not have to wait a day or two for medical assistance. When you are at an urgent care clinic, you will note that typically the wait times are less than at the ER. This is a benefit for the majority of Americans who have little time to spare in their days amidst numerous responsibilities.

Many of the clinics have X-rays and lab testing within them, too, which speeds up diagnosis for you during your time there. Some urgent care clinics will even refill prescriptions.

As for pricing, urgent care clinics are reasonable in cost. The price is usually comparable to going to a doctor’s office. If you are ready to complain about pricing, just remember that the cost is substantially higher if you were to make a trip to the ER instead. Plus, your co-pay will likely be lower than that at the local emergency department.


Disadvantages of Urgent Care Clinics

Urgent care centers are not to be mistaken for providing life-saving care. If it is a life-threatening health issue, you should go to the nearest emergency room instead. The ER is designed for treating intense emergency situations; if it is an emergency and you go to the urgent care center, it’s very likely that they will be unable to give you the care you need.

Unfortunately, going to the ER can be a costly experience. If you are financially unprepared for the debts coming your way in the weeks following the visit, you might need to make other financial arrangements. An ER visit typically costs approximately double the price of a trip to an urgent care clinic.

Another disadvantage of an urgent care clinic is that you medical_billing_advocate-33likely will not see the same physician every time you attend the clinic. If you do not go there on a regular basis, you also will not have a record on file. That means that the person caring for you does not know your personal health history or your family’s health history.

Some critics explain that these limitations prevent you from receiving the same standard of care that you would receive at your doctor’s office, where they have all of your health records.

In addition, some people have trouble remembering what medications they are taking. Other times, people are uncomfortable talking about their health problems with strangers, even when those strangers are physicians.

There may not be an acute care clinic near you, which means you would need to choose another option for your care. If you choose to go to the ER, where you will pay more and have a longer wait time than you would at the clinic, again, you will most likely face much higher bills for your visit.

While the number of urgent care centers is increasing in the U.S., not all American towns have one of these convenient facilities. Additionally, while clinic wait times are shorter than the ER, you will likely have to wait longer than you would when you attend a doctor’s office with an appointment.

Most urgent care clinics are privately owned, but some are associated with hospitals. This point makes for some variability within the moderate price range from one clinic to the next. Some of the clinics do not accept certain insurance carriers, so it is important to check whether your insurance will cover your visit, or at least part of the cost, before going there.

In addition to determining if your insurance plan covers the facility you choose, you will also want to write down all of the medications you currently take (prescription and non-prescription). This information is helpful to the physician on duty to provide you with the best treatment.

There are advantages and disadvantages of attending an urgent care clinic in the U.S. Depending on your specific health needs, the advantages may clearly outweigh the disadvantages, or vice versa. By being informed about the pros and cons before you have any healthcare issues, you can be in a position to reasonably assess a medical-related situation when it arises for you or your family.

Filed under: US Healthcare, Urgent Care, Resources, MBAA Education Center

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11 responses to “What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Urgent Care Clinics?”

  1. Sam Fisher says:

    With more urgent care type clinics opening up, it is important to know the good and the bad with them. Like you said, if you have an emergency, you should for sure see about going to the hospital. One of the better things about them is that it is a walk-in place. Which means that you don’t have to make an appointment and there is usually a lesser wait time.

  2. […] difficult to make an appointment at a primary care clinic with office hours. That’s where the urgent care center comes into […]

  3. Sammy Burke says:

    It sounds about right that there are cases of minor burns, sprains, and broken bones at urgent care clinics. I say that because my son talked to me about heading there with his daughter during her injury. Somehow she got injured while playing on a trip and falling down from there.

  4. Jalu Sakti says:

    I also think it is a huge advantage that urgent care clinics have flexible hours. For someone like me who is constantly at college or work, it can be really hard to find time for anything. Clinics staying open late and on weekends really helps someone like me to be able to go in when I need to. For someone like my wife, though, it’s a lot easier to get in during the day, so I think it depends on the person.

  5. Luke says:

    I didn’t know that an urgent care clinic didn’t require any sort of appointment, but I can definitely see how convenient that could be. I imagine most urgent cares have plans to make their services more affordable as well. I wonder if there are bulk billing clinics in my area at all. I’ll have to look into it. Thanks for the post.

  6. Joy says:

    It definitely is convenient that urgent care clinics offer more flexible hours. It can be frustrating to visit the ER in the middle of the night when there is a long wait, especially if you are needing to have testing done to be diagnosed. It is comforting to know that if you have mild symptoms that you need diagnosed outside of standard business hours that urgent care can be an option for you.

  7. Thank you for all this great information about choosing an urgent care facility! One thing that really stood out to me is that you say to make sure that your insurance is accepted at the facility. It would be nice to know that you will be able to afford the services.

  8. Kyle says:

    One of the real benefits of urgent care clinics are their hours and it is great that the article points this out. After all, most fully-fledged hospitals will make you wait ages to actually see someone. At least with urgent care centers they are open longer, increasing your chances of being able to get in.

  9. Kourtney says:

    I have always benefited from urgent cares being available to me when my primary doctor is unavailable or out of the office and for something that isn’t life threatening. I like that they have services available to you that can help in diagnosing. I have had testing done at an urgent care which was then able to help better treat what I was there for. If ever I need to be seen by a doctor and my regular doctor is unavailable, I’ll be going to an urgent care again.

  10. Rachel says:

    I’ve been wanting to find a good place I could go for if my family ever got sick or needed quick medical attention. You wrote that you should choose an urgent care facility, as they are equipped with x-rays and labs to help you diagnose your problem. This would be great, as they also have a reputation for getting people in and out quickly, so we could quickly start making our way back to normal, good health.

  11. Taylor says:

    I’m grateful to have read that urgent care centers have flexible hours. There have been a few times that I’ve wanted to take my daughter in to get physical, but the majority of clinics weren’t open. I’ll have to see what local urgent care centers are nearby us.