No one expects to get sick or plans on having an accident or surgery. Knowing the different places where you can receive care could save your life in an emergency.
Best places to go to for Health Care
We are often faced with uncertainty about where to go for care, especially if the symptoms are severe and our primary care doctor's office is closed.
Emergency – don’t hesitate. Go to the emergency room or call 911.
Your family doctor should be your first choice for non-emergency events. If you don’t have a family doctor you need to find one.
Having a family doctor and having a good relationship with your doctor is critical for your health. You need to find someone you feel comfortable having honest conversations with, someone you can trust to advise you on your health needs.
You should not hesitate to contact your family doctor when you are in urgent need. It is one of the benefits of having a doctor that knows you.
Your doctor may not always be available to assist you but at the least you can get advice as to what to do next.
• Call your plan's nurse hotline for advice (most plans provide this as a 24-hour free service).
These are small clinics located in retails stores, supermarkets and pharmacies. They are usually manned by nurse practitioners or physician assistants.
♦ They are best used for a simple health condition that needs immediate medical attention. At walk-in clinics you can receive treatment for minor illnesses and preventive services like vaccinations and health screenings.
Healthcare Clinics can be found in many Walgreen drugstores. Minute Clinics in CVS drugstores. Care Clinics in Walmart. Little Clinics in Kroger supermarkets. Most will accept major insurance but they may not accept all the various plans.
• The main reason why there has been an increase in the number of walk-in clinics is convenience and affordability. Walk-in clinics do not require an appointment, they are conveniently located and are open evenings and weekends.
One reason people choose walk-in clinics is the difficulty of getting an appointment at their regular doctor’s office. And when they do get an appointment they are usually faced with long wait times.
♦ Most walk-in clinics are staffed by licensed nurse practitioners and some are staffed by physician assistants. They have the training and authority to diagnose basic illnesses and prescribe medication.
They may not have the training or skill to diagnose more complicated issues. This has been a concern raised by some physicians.
• Some would argue that physician assistants are common now even in primary care doctors’ offices. In these settings, the assistants can easily consult with the primary care doctor. So the situation is a little different at the doctor’s office.
Still when was the last time your doctor actually gave you that flu shot?
Keep in mind walk-in clinics will not have access to your health records so you need to be prepared to explain any health conditions that you have and any prescriptions you are taking.
♦ Do not be afraid of angering your primary care physician by using a walk-in clinic. Just be sure to keep your doctor informed.
You should ask the clinic to send a report to your primary care doctor so your physician has a way of knowing what was wrong and how you were treated.
Walk-in clinics are convenient and they fill a need.
Urgent Care Clinic
Urgent care clinics and urgent care centers are a form of walk-in clinic. They are usually staffed by physicians, nurses and radiology technicians.
♦ Urgent care clinics treat issues that go beyond the scope of retail clinics, such as Minute Clinic and Little Clinic located in drugstores or grocery stores, but do not require emergency room care.
Urgent Care clinics are setup to assist patients with a variety of medical problems that need treatment right away, but are not considered true emergencies.
Learn more about Urgent Care.
In an emergency, you should get care from the closest hospital that can help you. That hospital will treat you regardless of whether you have insurance.
♦ Emergency rooms are the best place for treating severe and life-threatening conditions. They’re open 24 hours, seven days a week.
They have the widest range of services for emergency after-hours care, including diagnostic tests and access to specialists.
Learn more about Emergency Rooms.