The Importance of Understanding the Difference Between Emergency, Primary, and Urgent Care

Walk in health clinic

It may seem hard to believe that at one time, urgent care facilities were frowned upon and considered “Doc-in-a-Box” clinics. Fast forward to today, and urgent care facilities as well was mobile health clinics and even walk in health clinics are all considered integral aspects of the American health care system. These kinds of facilities help to bridge the gap between hospital emergency departments and primary care physician offices.

Since 2008, the number of urgent care facilities has continued to increase, jumping from 8,000 to 9,300. Perhaps one of the main reasons why the urgent care and low cost health clinic industry has continued to experience substantial growth is due to the fact that the majority of urgent care and walk in health clinics have wait times of 15 minutes or less to see a physician.

However, the lines between emergency, urgent, and primary care can often become blurred and lead to confusion. Urgent care is not a replacement for emergency or primary care, but instead, is designed to evaluate and treat acutely occurring injuries and illness that are not severe enough to warrant emergency medical treatment but still require immediate medical attention. Common examples may include stomach viruses, colds and flus, sprains, and minor to moderate cuts or burns.

On the other hand, primary care physicians are more focused on the overall well being of their patients, not just an acute illness. While any of the aforementioned conditions can be treated at a primary care physician’s office, scheduling an appointment on short notice can be difficult. In addition, primary care physician appointments are best reserved for chronic conditions, such as allergies or high blood pressure, or regular check ups.

It’s important to find a primary care physician whom you’re comfortable with. Conducting a primary care physician search can help you find a care provider that best meets your needs. There are several ways to conduct a primary care physician search, such as through your health insurance provider, online, asking for personal recommendations from friends, or a combination of these methods.

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