When you have the flu and can’t get out of bed, or have a broken bone from an unexpected skiing accident at Benjamin Rush State Park, you might need to visit an urgent care center or walk-in clinic.
These clinics offer fast, affordable medical services without making you wait days for an appointment with your primary care provider. But which one will be best for your needs?
Both provide immediate care for non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries, but different levels of service are offered between walk-in clinics and urgent care. Philadelphia offers you options for both. Here is a look at when each of these facilities is best suited to meet your healthcare needs.
What Is a Walk-in Clinic?
A walk-in clinic is a medical facility that offers same-day, walk-in care for non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries. They are sometimes called “retail clinics,” in part because they are often located near pharmacies or retailers for your convenience. Walk-in clinics don’t require appointments to see physician assistants or nurse practitioners. Instead, they typically use a “first come, first serve” approach.
What Is an Urgent Care Center?
An urgent care center is a walk-in clinic with more services. They can address more serious injuries or illnesses than a walk-in clinic, but at more affordable rates than a hospital or emergency room.
Their staff includes doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. With an urgent care center, you don’t need an appointment to see a doctor. They can treat minor illnesses, prescribe medication, and take x-rays.
When to Visit a Walk-in Clinic
A walk-in clinic can be a great place to visit if you have a non-life-threatening illness or injury, such as cold/flu, sprains, or minor cuts and scrapes. It’s set up for minor health concerns but problems that you don’t want to wait for an appointment to get help with.
Walk-in clinics can also treat non-emergency medical issues, such as urinary tract infections. But if you have a sudden and severe illness, injury, or infection, you should visit an urgent care center. Walk-in clinics are designed to treat non-severe illnesses, such as a sprained ankle, a cold, or a rash.
When to Visit an Urgent Care Center
An urgent care center is a good choice if you have a non-life-threatening problem that needs to be addressed quickly. If it’s time-sensitive but not life-threatening, choose urgent care. They offer extended hours to make their services available when most doctor’s offices are closed and you can be seen same-day. This helps you avoid expensive trips to the hospital or emergency room.
Urgent care centers can treat all the same problems as walk-in clinics. And they also typically can draw blood for lab testing, stitch wounds, and perform x-rays on-site.
If you’ve had a sudden and severe illness, injury, or infection, you should visit an urgent care center. Urgent care centers are equipped to handle sudden and severe illnesses, such as the flu, pneumonia, meningitis, food poisoning, and blood infections. Urgent care centers can also treat sudden and severe injuries, such as broken bones, concussions, sprains, and burns. They can also stitch injuries.
Tips for Using Urgent Care and Walk-in Clinics
- Do your research
When looking at urgent care and walk-in clinics in your area, be sure to do your research and find out which ones accept your insurance. You may also want to find out how long you’ll have to wait to be seen at each facility. Some facilities do offer scheduled appointments, so if you want to get in quickly, try to find a place that will allow you to schedule your visit.
- Choose the level of care you need
Which option you need is dictated by the severity of the problem you need help with. Minor concerns can be handled by walk-in clinics. Injuries or illnesses that need to be addressed immediately but aren’t life-threatening should be taken to acute care or urgent clinics. Any life-threatening problem must go to an emergency room or hospital.
- Plan your visit at a time that works for you
Walk-in clinics often have limited hours and operate on a “first come, first served” basis. Be sure you visit when the clinic is open and you have time to wait or find a location where you can schedule an appointment.
- Come prepared
Bring a list of your current medications, medical conditions, and allergies with you to the clinic.
Urgent care centers and walk-in clinics are convenient places to go if you want to avoid expensive emergency room fees and your primary care doctor is unavailable. While walk-in clinics are great for treating minor ailments, they are not equipped to offer the same level of care as an urgent care center. Medical emergencies can happen at any time, so make sure you understand your options before you need them.