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Can You Substitute Your Primary Care Doctor for a Walk In Clinic?

Can You Substitute Your Primary Care Doctor for a Walk In Clinic?

When you get sick, the last thing you want to do is to make an appointment with your primary care physician, miss more work than you need to, and then wait for what seems like hours in their waiting room.

So why not head over to a walk in clinic for treatment instead? Walk in health clinics and urgent care centers can be a convenient option, as 85% of urgent care centers are open seven days a week, have a wait time of less than 20 minutes, and most open before 9 a.m. and close after 7 p.m. on weekdays.

But at the end of the day, can an urgent care facility be a substitute for your primary care doctor altogether? Not always, but it can definitely act as a supplement form of medical care, and here’s why.

Walk in clinics have qualified medical professionals
Most urgent care clinics are staffed by quality, experienced doctors and nurses. They may even be staffed by primary care doctors doing a rotation at the local clinic. While it’s helpful to have a primary care physician familiar with your body and health history, for routine or urgent medical care, there are other options. 

Never feel like an urgent care center will deprive you of valuable medical care.

But they are limited in prescribing
As the doctor at the clinic does not have your medical history, it can be hard for them to give you a comprehensive exam. This is why you should always go to your primary care doctor at least once a year for an annual physical, or if you have any long-term health conditions like depression, anxiety, diabetes, or high blood pressure, just to name a few.

Clinic doctors typically diagnose temporary ailments; think the common cold, ear infections, broken/sprained bones, upper respiratory infections, or strep throat. You will also be able to receive preventative care at these clinics; std testing, vaccines, and gynecological testing are all typically included. However, with rare exceptions, even the best walk in health clinics won’t be able to write you a prescription.

They are not the emergency room
While walk in clinics are fast and convenient, they cannot be substitute for actual medical emergencies. If you suffer from a seizure, stroke, heart attack, or another severe bodily injury, it is best that you go to an emergency room straight away.

While urgent care services are beneficial for temporary care, for those with health insurance, it should never be used as a total replacement for your primary care doctor. However, for those without health insurance coverage, these clinics are filling a major gap in our healthcare infrastructure.

If you have any additional questions, call your nearest urgent care center today.