(Family Features) In recent years, urgent care’s role in America’s health care system has increased dramatically. In fact, urgent care facilities now handle nearly 90 million visits each year, according to the Urgent Care Association.
Yet urgent care can still be an afterthought, leaving many people struggling to get in quickly to see their regular doctor or facing long waits and bills from emergency room (ER) visits.
Next time you’re sick or need medical care, consider these three reasons why you should explore urgent care as an alternative to the ER.
1. Head to toe: Get a range of treatment.
Urgent care centers can treat a variety of non-life-threatening illnesses or injuries and prevent ailments from getting worse. Some top reasons for patients to book an urgent care visit include general illness or consultation, urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted disease, sore throat, vaginal discharge, prescriptions, sinus problems, ear infections and annual physicals.
It’s important to consider the difference between emergency and urgency. An emergency is a life-or-limb-threatening situation which according to the Mayo Clinic includes chest pain or pressure; compound fractures; head injuries; pneumonia; seizures; severe abdominal pain; shortness of breath; sudden, severe headaches; paralysis or weakness; or uncontrollable bleeding. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should call 911 or head to the ER.
2. Escape the wait: Book ahead.
Because ERs prioritize the most serious cases, non-emergency issues typically have to wait. That could mean 1 1/2-4 hours or more of waiting, according to Becker’s Healthcare’s assessment of ER wait times by state.
Instead, you can avoid the wait by instantly booking an urgent care appointment through free, online booking services like Zocdoc, which allow you to register ahead, show up at a confirmed time and be seen quickly when you’re sick or in pain.
Urgent care facilities’ flexibility in scheduling is also important since many people’s urgent care issues need to be addressed quickly. This is reflected in urgent care booking trends, which show 1 in 4 appointments take place after hours (6-11 p.m.), when doctors’ offices are typically closed.
3. Stay close: There’s one near you.
When you are injured or don’t feel well, you are less likely to be willing to travel far. With a 60% increase in the number of urgent care facilities across the U.S. in the last 10 years, according to research conducted by Frederic Michas and published by Statista, chances are there’s a facility near you.
Today, you can instantly book appointments online with urgent care facilities across 22 states and more than 200 locations on Zocdoc. Its number of urgent care facilities is growing by an average of nearly 40% monthly with bookings up by an average of 80% month over month this year.
Learn more and book an urgent care visit near you at Zocdoc.com or download the app.
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