Hydrid health care clinics that are both emergency rooms and urgent care centers have sprung up all over the country to offer patients more options for convenient and quality health care. ER and urgent care centers, in some ways, are the best of both worlds. People do not need to decide between going for emergency healthcare services or to an urgent care clinic. This development is great for patient care.
For years when someone became ill or injured at night or on the weekend, they had only one option and that was the emergency room. It did not matter if they had suffered a sprained ankle, which is one of the most common injuries in the United States, or if they needed flu treatment or had suffered a stroke. When the primary care of family medicine clinic was closed, the hospital emergency room was the place to go. As a consequence, the number of visits to emergency rooms was high. As it is, every year, there are at least 100 million emergency room visits.
In the 1970s, some emergency medicine doctors saw a need for a different kind of health care. People who needed to be seen right away but were not having a true medical emergency needed a new kind of medical care. They needed to be able to be seen by a medical professional when their schedule permitted it, not when it was convenient for a doctor’s office. The urgent care center was born.
It should be noted that urgent care is not the same as receiving emergency medical services. Urgent care clinics were designed for problems that could not wait for a primary care doctor’s office to open but were not considered to be medical emergencies. When you look at the care received in the ER andamp; urgent care centers, that is an important distinction. Here are some of the illnesses and injuries that can be treated at urgent care facilities around the country:
- Muscle sprains and strains. At least 80% of all urgent care centers have x-ray technology.
- Simple fractures of fingers and toes.
- Moderate back pain.
- Fevers and the flu.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Dehydration. At least 70% of all urgent care centers have the ability to provide intravenous (IV) hydration.
- Small lacerations.
- Urinary tract infections.
- STD testing.
Since the first clinic opened in the 1970s, the number of this kind of clinic has swelled to almost 10,000 nationwide. The urgent care industry was listed as being worth about $14.5 billion in 2014. The American Academy of Urgent Care Medicine (AAUCM) and the Urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA) have some criteria that a clinic must meet to be classified as being an “urgent care center.” They require centers:
- Have hours where they see patients every day of the week.
- Accept walk in patients when they are open.
- Treat a wide array of conditions and injuries.
- Be able to perform minor procedures.
- The medical director needs to be a licensed doctor.
- Have more than one exam room.
- Provide onsite diagnostic tests.
- Adhere to their strict business and ethical standards.
Many urgent care centers do something that neither the emergency department nor the primary care doctor’s office can do, they provide travel medical services. When people want to go to an exotic location and need shots for that, urgent care centers have been a good place to go. They have even expanded their services to include more primary care options so when people need it, they can receive basic health care services.
When people are sick or hurt and they cannot reach their regular doctor, they are not always sure where to go. When both the ER and urgent care center are options, they had to make a tough decision. The good news is that recently a new kind of medical care center has appeared on the scene. More and more communities are now being served by clinics that can act as both an ER and urgent care center.
ER and urgent care centers are coming as a very welcome development for a lot of people who are not sure which is the place for their injury or illness. It is often hard for people to tell how seriously they have been hurt or how sick they are.