In the past decade, walk-in clinics have popped up all over the place — in office buildings, drugstores, grocery stores and department stores. Huffington Post reports that there are nearly 2,000 retail clinics run by physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners in stores throughout the U.S. Patients can also receive more individualized care at walk-in clinics managed by physicians.
When is it appropriate to head to the walk-in clinic instead of rushing to the emergency room? Generally, you can turn to urgent care if something minor comes up and you can’t get in to see your regular physician because it’s after-hours, or he may not have a current opening.
If the ailment needs immediate attention, but is not life threatening, patients should visit an urgent care facility. Keep in mind that these tips do not apply to more serious ailments, which should be treated in an emergency room. For more information on how to recognize potentially deadly symptoms, check out this handy chart from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
For Symptoms That Aren’t Life Threatening
As a rule, go directly to the nearest emergency room if you think your life is at risk. Walk-in clinics offer a quick and affordable way to get medical advice and prescriptions from a professional for patients who want to avoid the long lines and unpredictable wait times at local hospitals. Consider an immediate care service if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Sore throat or cough
- Mild nausea
- Mild headache
- Fever without vomiting
- Minor sprains and fractures
- Minor cuts and burns
- Gastrointestinal and urinary discomfort
To Monitor Chronic Illnesses
Convenient care clinics are becoming increasingly popular with patients who cope with chronic medical conditions. Most offices have in-house labs that can process bloodwork quickly, and the staff can usually fill prescriptions within the same visit for patients who have run out of refills at their pharmacy. If your doctor can’t get you in for a month or two, or you’ve recently moved to a new town, you can walk into a clinic for help regulating:
- High cholesterol
Once flu season starts, health care professionals urge patients to stay up to date on their flu shots and other immunizations. Physicians recommend getting a flu shot every year around October/November. Some facilities offer this service as early as September. Immediate care clinics can provide children and adults with fast and affordable vaccinations that include:
- Measles, mumps, rubella
When You Can’t Visit Your Doctor
It’s no secret that many physicians like to travel. You’ve probably tried to make an appointment for a checkup, only to find that your doctor will be out of town. Most walk-in clinics stay open 365 days a year, so if you fall ill on a day that your doctor isn’t working, you’ve got a convenient alternative. Also, if you’re out of town and you run into a minor medical issue, it’s easy to find a nearby urgent care clinic online or in a hotel phone book. Here are some occasions when patients opt for minute clinics to get their treatment:
- Early mornings
- On vacation
It may not always be easy to determine when to go to a walk-in clinic, but hopefully these tips have helped shed some light on the subject. Walk-in clinics offer a convenient, quick and often affordable option for patients with ailments that are not life threatening. If you have any doubt about the severity of your symptoms, or your symptoms resemble a heart attack or stroke, call 911, or get to the emergency room as soon as possible.
About the Author:
Dr. Abhijit Shinde, owner and physician at Aayu Clinics Lakeview Immediate Care, has a long history of experience in primary care, urgent care, and ER. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Dr. Shinde and the staff at Aayu Clinics are invested in every patient’s health, staying open 365 days a year to help patients when they need it.