Urgent care clinics have been in existence only since the 1970s and probably first evolved as a solution to the problems of long waits for primary care appointments and overcrowded, expensive emergency department visits. Since then, the industry has evolved to more than 10,000 centers across the United States — currently, 89.4 percent of the population is within a 20-minute drive of an urgent care clinic.
Part of the industry’s growth is due to the fact that there are many medical conditions that require clinical evaluation and management within 24 to 48 hours but that are not life- or limb-threatening and can be treated in a more patient-friendly environment than an emergency room. According to one study, as many as 37 percent of patients who go to an emergency department could potentially be treated outside of it — for instance, in an urgent care setting. (Read “Urgent Care or Emergency Care: What’s the Difference?” to learn more about how to decide where to go when an unexpected medical issue arises.)
Urgent care facilities provide convenient treatment for medical conditions that are not life-threatening, such as the flu or a rash. They usually have extended hours and are open on weekends to provide more accessibility to patients who need immediate care but can’t immediately see their primary care provider.
It’s not possible to list every possible condition that can be treated at an urgent care clinic, so I’ll say that from my perspective as a physician, I think about the diagnostic and management tools available in this care setting. This can help a patient understand what type of care to expect.
This typically includes:
Generally, urgent care clinics are staffed by physicians with specialty training in family medicine or emergency medicine, or advanced practice clinicians (physician assistants and/or nurse practitioners) with prior family medicine, urgent care, or emergency medicine experience.
I hope this alleviates any anxiety about seeking medical care and better prepares you for your next urgent care visit. At Carbon Health, our providers are standing by to provide urgent care services both in-person and virtually, with same-day appointments, walk-in availability, and evening and weekend accessibility. Learn more about Carbon Health.
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