Urgent care centers function differently from doctor’s clinics and even emergency rooms, and some people aren’t familiar with their services. Urgent care centers and walk-in clinics provide treatment for patients with conditions that require immediate attention but are not life-threatening. They also cover other medical services such as X-rays, lab exams, and even vaccinations.
Here are some things you should know before seeking urgent care:
1. Don’t Wait for an Emergency
Health emergencies of any kind can be incredibly stressful, and it can be difficult to make level-headed decisions if you or someone in your household is in need of immediate medical attention. This is why it’s important to know a local urgent care center before you get sick or injured.
Look up all the urgent care centers in your area and choose one that accepts your health insurance. It should ideally be a center that provides general care. If you have children, you should also locate a pediatric urgent care center in your back pocket. List down the names of these facilities and their addresses, contact information, and operating hours. Keep this list near your phone or in a common area so everyone in your house can refer to it during emergencies.
2. Try to Call First
Most urgent care centers accept walk-in patients, but given the COVID-19 pandemic, many social distancing protocols can complicate this. If you can, call your local urgent care center before coming in. Medical personnel will screen you via phone call and advise the best time for you to come in.
Even without the pandemic, it’s still best practice to call ahead and ask about the wait time to see a health care provider. If the center doesn’t allow appointments, you will still have a better idea of how busy it is and how long you have to wait before getting treatment. In addition, some urgent care centers allow online check-ins for patients. Providing all your information before dropping by will also help streamline the treatment process.
3. Bring Important Documents
Unlike clinics and hospitals, urgent care centers don’t carry extensive medical records. Even if you’ve been to their facility once or twice before, they still may not have a file on your medical history to treat your condition.
Make sure to take note of all your medical information before you go to urgent care. This includes your prescription medication, previous medical diagnoses, and your primary care physician’s name and contact information. Of course, it’s important to bring your health insurance information, too. You also need at least one photo ID to verify your identity.
When to Skip Urgent Care and Go to the ER Instead
Urgent care centers can help treat simple urgent health concerns. However, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, they are best evaluated at a hospital emergency room:
- Severe head injury or trauma
- Loss of consciousness
- Signs of stroke (weakness, confusion, loss of vision, difficulty speaking)
- Severe chest pain
- Severe abdominal pain
- Severe burns
- Heavy bleeding
- Open fractures
- Fever in a one-month-old infant or younger
Urgent care centers are convenient options to receive medical treatment for non-life-threatening symptoms and conditions. Remember to bring all pertinent identification and medical documentation with you as well. Most importantly, identify which locations can handle and treat you for shorter wait times and to ensure your safety.
At Aspen Medical Center, we provide efficient, compassionate, and high-quality urgent care services for you and your family. Our clinic locations in Santa Fe and Espanola are open seven days a week to address your urgent health concerns. Please call ahead at 505-466-5885 for patient screening.