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6 Common Myths About Urgent Care

Jun 16, 2022 Urgent Care Share:

What do you think of when you hear the words “urgent care clinic”?

Do you think of it as a costly medical clinic like an emergency room, open 24 hours a day? Or perhaps you think of crowded waiting rooms and ill-equipped doctors, ready to prescribe an antibiotic for everything that ails you?

If so, you might believe some of these common myths about urgent care.

Read on to learn the truth about urgent care clinics.

Myth #1: Urgent care clinics are just like emergency rooms

While an urgent care clinic can treat many of the things that people visit an emergency room for, it is not a substitute for the ER. You can visit an urgent care clinic without an appointment for medical issues that need treatment today, such as flu, broken bones, and abscesses. But urgent care clinics are not equipped to treat true medical emergencies, such as heart attack, stroke, or physical trauma.

You can still visit an emergency room for urgent issues, but your visit will usually cost more and take longer than a visit to an urgent care clinic. But you can't visit an urgent care clinic for emergency issues.

Additionally, most urgent care clinics aren’t open 24 hours a day. While they are usually open longer hours than a typical family doctor, most urgent care clinics don’t offer round-the-clock care. If you’re sick in the middle of the night and can’t wait until morning to see a doctor, you need to visit the emergency room. Always check clinic hours before visiting urgent care.

You should also know that a freestanding ER is not an urgent care clinic. Although it’s not attached to a hospital, it still offers all of the same services as a traditional emergency room. For true medical emergencies, call 911 or go directly to your nearest emergency room.

Myth #2: Urgent care clinics are expensive

Because urgent care clinics are often confused with emergency rooms, people often believe that visiting one will be just as expensive as a trip to the ER. While the cost of your urgent care visit will depend on your specific insurance coverage, trips to urgent care are usually comparable in cost to a regular visit to a doctor’s office and are almost always cheaper than a trip to the ER.

For patients with insurance, your total charges are based on your provider’s policy for urgent care as well as the level of care you receive while visiting an urgent care clinic. If you don’t have insurance, we can provide an estimate for the cost of your visit.

Myth #3: Urgent care doctors can't do much

While some people think an urgent care clinic can do everything an emergency room can, others believe that urgent care clinics are very limited in the care they can offer. But you might be surprised to learn that you can actually get robust healthcare services at urgent care.

Urgent care clinics are so much more than a “doc in the box”. While we can’t do everything that an ER can, we do offer many of the same services and diagnostic tools. At MedHelp, we boast a fully-equipped CLIA-certified lab, digital x-ray, and ultrasound technology. We can also give injections and stitches, and we can brace or cast injuries. We can also write you a prescription and make referrals for specialized care as needed.

When you visit MedHelp for urgent care, you also have access to our many specialty services. Our specialty services include sports medicine, dermatology, and clinical research. We can perform physicals for sports, remove concerning moles, and refer you to paid clinical trials if you’re eligible.

Myth #4: There's always a long wait at urgent care

Have you ever avoided going to an urgent care clinic because you were nervous about the waiting room? A common misconception about urgent care is that the waiting room is filled with dozens of sick people waiting together for hours. Whether you thought your trip would take all day or were worried about bringing home new germs, that just isn’t the case.

Our waiting rooms are spacious, clean, and bright. And we’ve divided our waiting rooms into zones so that well patients can sit separately from patients who are battling germs. And we work hard to move our patients into a private room as soon as possible. If you’ve got a bleeding wound or are vomiting, let us know and we’ll get you back right away.

And a visit to urgent care won’t be an all-day affair. For most patients, you can walk in, see a doctor, and be on your way home in about an hour. (Visits that require labs or x-rays may take a little longer than an hour, but we work hard to eliminate needless delays during your visit.)

Myth #5: Urgent care doctors provide low-quality care

Many people worry that they’ll get sub-standard medical care when they visit an urgent care clinic. But you can get expert, personalized care when you visit MedHelp for urgent care.

We staff our clinics with board-certified physicians and nurse practitioners who are dedicated to providing outstanding medical care to their patients. We don’t want our patients to spend all day in the clinic, but we do work hard to spend time listening to our urgent care patients and providing the correct treatment. We know that every patient is different and has different medical needs, even if you’re just coming in with an ear infection.

What we won’t do is treat every patient with antibiotics or a steroid shot. Like any doctor, we want to help you feel better and we want to provide appropriate treatment for your illness. And in some cases, antibiotics are needed and a steroid shot can help you feel better. But this isn’t the right treatment for everyone.

When you see your urgent care doctor for any medical need, they’re going to listen to your symptoms, perform a physical exam and any needed labs or diagnostics, and provide the appropriate form of treatment. Your doctor will also make recommendations for follow-up care as needed. And if you’re not sure why your urgent care doctor is providing (or not providing) a specific type of treatment, they’re always happy to explain their treatment decisions and answer any questions you have.

Myth #6: Urgent care eliminates the need for a primary care doctor

Even though you can visit an urgent care clinic when you get sick, you still need to have a primary care doctor. Urgent care clinics and primary care doctors provide two different types of medical care, and both have a role in keeping you healthy.

Urgent care is reactive medical care. In other words, you visit urgent care when you have an acute or immediate medical need that needs to be treated. For example, if you fall and think you’ve broken your wrist, you need to see a doctor for urgent treatment. That doctor will diagnose your injury and provide appropriate treatment, such as a brace or splint. They may also provide injectable pain relief as needed.

Primary care is more proactive and preventive medicine, although a primary care doctor is also there for you when you have urgent medical needs. Your primary care doctor is the doctor you see for annual check-ups, management of ongoing medical conditions, and changes in your health. A primary care doctor can also coordinate your healthcare across multiple specialties if needed. Everyone needs a primary care doctor to partner with them for better health.

You should ideally visit your primary care doctor for immediate medical needs such as a possible broken wrist or a sinus infection. But if an appointment isn’t available for a few days, an urgent care clinic is a great option.

Don’t let common misconceptions about urgent care clinics keep you from getting expert, compassionate, and affordable urgent care when you need it.

Birmingham Urgent Care Clinics

MedHelp has been providing high-quality urgent care to Birmingham for over forty years. Get compassionate, affordable, and expert medical care at one of our five urgent care clinics. Walk-ins are always welcome.