Should You Go to the ER?

medical walk in clinicWhen you have a medical problem requiring immediate care, your first impulse is likely to find a primary care physician. But when your doctor’s office is closed, where do you turn? This confusion is quite common, and can actually have a negative affect on a community as a whole by filling up emergency rooms with relatively innocuous medical complaints. According to a study by the Center for Disease Control, or CDC, as many as 48% of adult ER patients who were not sick enough to warrant hospital admittance said that they went to the hospital anyway, because their physician’s offices were closed. Consider how much time, energy, and space might have been saved by the patient and spared the hospital staff if those patients had been aware of other options, like a medical walk in clinic.

A medical walk in clinic or urgent care center represents a growing sector in the healthcare industry. A 2010 study by the Rand Corporation found that almost one in five visits to the ER could be treated at a community health clinic like an urgent care center. This could potentially save as much as $4.4 billion a year in healthcare costs.

Walk in health clinics can treat a variety of medical complications and problems that may not be very serious but require immediate treatment. This could include sprains and strains, upper respiratory illnesses, gastrointestinal issues such as food poisoning, lacerations, and concussions. Medical walk in clinics are now also offering a number of other health services, including STD testing procedures, that can both help their communities and reduce wait times at doctor’s offices and hospitals. For this reason, medical walk in clinics have become extremely profitable, accounting for as much as $14 billion in revenue a year in the United States.

So the next time you experience a relatively non-serious medical problem and are unable to visit your primary care physician, don’t head to your nearest emergency room. Instead, visit a neighborhood health clinic. This will not only help reduce overcrowded emergency rooms, but also let you access the care you need quicker and easier.

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