When you have an emergency, you want timely primary medical care. Any accident or illness can progress to the point of needing immediate attention from a physician, which is stressful enough without the questions that follow. Questions such as, “Where do I go?” “What’s even open at this hour?” and perhaps most frustrating, the question of: “How long will this take?”
Minor injuries and illnesses are annoying, but they are usually easily resolved with a scheduled trip to your family medicine office. This category of care is considered low stress for two reasons. Firstly, minor illnesses, or minor burns or back pain are conditions that need to be seen by a physician but you know that making an appointment for the next day won’t cause your body unresolvable harm. A cold won’t cause you to go into a coma, nor will an odd rash cause you to lose a limb. That sense of urgency is not pushing you to find the nearest emergency room.
Secondly, timely primary medical care for non-urgent injuries has clear parameters if you go to your physician. You have an appointment time, and you know that the doctor will see you within a certain time frame. There may be a bit of a waiting game if the doctor writes a prescription and you need to head to the pharmacy. That confidence in the process is simply not there when you are dealing with emergency rooms or urgent care clinics.
Now, it is important to note that a long wait in an emergency room is never a good reason to avoid going if you are truly experiencing an emergency. There are a few obvious crisis situations when only the emergency room do, such as sudden chest pains, severe lacerations, loss of consciousness, or an open sprain. If necessary, call 911 to get immediate help for any injury or illness that threatens life or limb.
Now, if your symptoms do not fall into the above category, but still worrying enough that you would much rather not wait on an appointment at the doctor’s office, there’s urgent care. These clinics do offer timely primary medical care, usually past the time that your primary physician’s office is open. About 65% of urgent care clinics keep a physician on the premises during all hours, which makes it possible for 60% of them to keep wait times down to around an average 15 minutes per patient. It has been found that they average only seven rooms per clinic, so it is likely that some hours are busier than others.
No one likes going to the doctor; no amount of lollipops can fix that. But, if a patient knows with confidence where they can go for their ailment, and how long it will take to be seen, they will feel a lot better about the whole process.
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