What Is Urgent Care?
Defining urgent care
It doesn’t seem that long ago that hospitals were local institutions catering to a single community. They were accessible and staffed by physicians who lived in—and were members of—the neighborhoods they served. If you needed stitches or had a sprained ankle, you could plan a visit to the emergency room with the expectation of receiving prompt, affordable care.
But times have changed. These days, hospital emergency rooms are very busy places. They're usually understaffed and overburdened by severe cases that require immediate attention. If you show up at a modern-day emergency room with a less urgent health complaint like a burn or sore throat, you'll probably have to wait for a long time before seeing a physician.
That's where urgent care centers like PhysicianOne Urgent Care come in. We fill the gap between traditional hospital emergency rooms and doctor's offices by offering walk-in care, longer hours and the immediate treatment of urgent, but not life-threatening emergencies. At urgent care centers, you can see a provider without an appointment, just as you would at an ER. Plus, urgent care centers typically offer extended hours, 365 days a year (including most holidays) because they understand situations requiring medical attention don’t always occur during business hours.
When should I visit an urgent care center?
You should visit an urgent care center when you need medical attention for an acute illness or injury. An acute condition is an ailment or injury that requires attention, but isn't quite severe enough for a trip to the emergency room (if your primary care doctor is unavailable).
Urgent care centers are usually staffed by physicians, physician assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners, medical assistants, radiological technologists, and front desk receptionists. Their staff can treat fractures, provide IV fluids, and have usually have X-ray and lab processing on-site. Many urgent care centers also provide additional services, such as sports and school physicals, travel vaccinations, and occupational medicine.
The growth of urgent care centers in the U.S.
Over the last 20 years, there has been a growing demand for the valuable and necessary services that urgent care centers provide. At last count, there are more than 9,000 urgent care facilities in the United States, with hundreds more opening each year.
Are urgent care centers affiliated with hospitals?
While some urgent care centers are hospital-affiliated, you'll find just as many that are independently owned and operated. Still, when you visit an urgent care center, you can be confident that the doctors and other medical professionals on staff have received the same training as hospital physicians. In fact, most urgent care providers are trained in emergency medicine, family medicine, and other specialties.
Why choose an urgent care center?
Urgent care centers deliver prompt medical care at a substantially lower cost by offering patients only the care they need. Emergency rooms are equipped to treat life-threatening circumstances, but the high cost of using a facility designed for that level of medical care is reflected in their bill. As a result, the treatment costs at urgent care centers are almost always significantly lower.
Plus, urgent care centers also free up emergency rooms from cases that are not life-threatening or emergent. That means emergency room staff can focus on patients who truly need immediate, life-saving care.