So, imagine you or someone you know has just suffered an injury of some kind after dinner — one that warrants medical attention immediately. Perhaps you’ve even been in this situation before. Typically, you have only a few options on how to proceed, but all of them require you getting care as soon as you can.
Continue imagining that your primary care physician’s office is closed for the day, and they cannot be reached. In most cases, you would probably think the emergency room was your next best bet. It certainly can be — millions are alive today because of the consummate professionalism shown by the health care providers in the E.R. setting. It certainly takes a dedicated, driven sort of individual to function among the never ending chaos that is the emergency unit.
Still, we can all probably think of at least one major downside to showing up at the emergency room. If you’re like most Americans, you’re thinking about the wait times. Due to the frenzied nature of the average emergency room and its frequency of visitors and patients, getting every patient cared for promptly is a logistical nightmare. In the eyes of the healthcare industry itself, it’s downright impossible. That’s why emergency room staff will see the most critically injured patients first, potentially leaving you and your imaginary injury untreated for a long period of time.
For this reason, Americans have familiarized (and should continue familiarizing) themselves with the concept of visiting an urgent care center the next time they suffer a non-life threatening injury. Sometimes called a walk in clinic, these facilities have longer hours than normal doctor’s offices, cost much less than the emergency room (average insurance copays are between $30-$55), and have an average wait time of under 20 minutes. That’s leagues faster than the E.R.
In many cases where an injury is not life-threatening, an urgent care center is just as viable an option, if not more so, than a visit to the emergency room.