What to do when you twist your ankle Saturday morning or your toddler develops a nasty cough in the middle of the night? Of course, you can visit your nearest emergency room, but is it worth it? You run the risk of waiting for hours before being seen, not to mention waiting in a room full of sick people. How much will that visit cost? You weigh up the pros and cons of your apparent two choices – waiting days to be seen at your doctor’s office or potentially waiting hours in an emergency room. You have a third option: consider visiting an urgent care or walk-in clinic. Choose not to suffer through days of discomfort waiting to get an appointment at your doctor’s office, and likewise not to spend hours and hundreds of dollars at an emergency room. There are many differences between a walk-in clinic and an emergency room, and a multitude of reasons that make a walk-in clinic a better choice for many people in numerous situations.
Shorter Wait Times
One of the main benefits of going to an urgent care clinic rather than an emergency room is the difference in wait time. If you have an urgent but non-emergent injury or illness, you will continue to wait at an emergency room as patients with more severe ailments take priority, regardless of arrival time. At walk-in clinics, patients are seen on a first-come-first-serve basis. This fact, among other factors, results in a drastic difference of wait time to be seen by a healthcare professional as well as total time spent at the facility. At a walk-in clinic you can typically expect to be seen by a provider within minutes, and spend no more than 90 minutes in total at the clinic. Although wait times at an emergency room vary, a wait of a couple hours before being seen by a provider can be expected.
The cost of an emergency room visit can substantially exceed a visit to an urgent care clinic, in some cases as much as 20 times the cost of visit to urgent care. Treatments can vary wildly in cost at an emergency room, much more so than in an urgent care facility. Further, if you choose to be seen at an emergency room rather than an urgent care clinic for a “minor” symptom such as a cough, your insurance company may deny coverage and you could be required to pay out of pocket for the visit.
Closer to Home
Walk-in clinics continue to expand, adding more locations and options for the community. With the expansion of these clinics, you will undoubtedly find one convenient for you, close to home or work. For example, Perlman Clinic has four locations, soon opening a fifth!
Longer Hours than Doctors’ Offices
Most physicians’ office hours are between 9-5 Monday through Friday, sometimes open as late as 6 P.M. Considering full-time work and school, it can be difficult to make time for an appointment during these hours. Urgent care clinics are designed to accommodate work and school schedules, providing their patients with extended hours, sometimes including weekend hours.
Better Patient-to-Staff Ratio
Urgent care clinics, like Perlman Clinic, employ a higher number of health care professionals than an emergency room. Beyond the better patient-to-staff ratio generally offered by clinics versus emergency rooms, Perlman Clinic schedules two patients per hour per provider versus a majority of clinics, who schedule between three and five patients per hour. This means their providers can spend more time with patients, answering questions and building a relationship. Patients feel attended to and cared for by nurses and doctors that aren’t distracted and harried.
Another advantage to scheduling fewer patients per provider is the clinics’ availability to provide education to their patients. You will benefit by learning about your diagnosis and treatment, and in some cases be informed when you should seek emergency care or a follow up appointment to monitor your recovery.
More Services than an Emergency Room
Most emergency rooms only provide patients with a one-time visit to service their immediate ailment. Patients are then left to schedule an appointment for follow-up with a doctor who doesn’t know their history, as well as a new set of costs associated. If a referral is needed, we are now looking at a third set of appointments and fees. However, Perlman Clinic offers more services than urgent care alone, including primary care, pain management, integrative medicine, concierge medicine, and endocrinology. There is a confidence in knowing that the same group of people who aided in your immediate affliction will be the same group who will see you back to health. Read our article on the difference between Emergency Rooms & urgent care clinics for more info.
Who Should Use a Walk-In Clinic?
If you are someone experiencing a mild to moderate injury or illness, a walk-in clinic is a great option for a consultation and treatment on a walk-in or appointment basis. Prescription needs, referrals and follow-up visits, as well as additional services will be seen to at a walk-in clinic, and with much less cost and time spent.