In an effort to avoid the high bills that can result from a visit to the hospital's emergency room, some people are turning to urgent-care and retail clinics. What many do not realize is there is an in important difference in the care provided by the two clinics. Here is what you need to know to help you determine which is more appropriate for your medical issue.
What Are Urgent-Care and Retail Clinics?
Most people are familiar with urgent-care clinics. Urgent-care centers are typically staffed by doctors. The centers also feature more specialized equipment that is needed to accurately assess patients, such as x-ray machines. Some centers are equipped to perform CT scans and EKGs.
Urgent care is often seen as a way to alleviate the strain that emergency rooms experience. Many insurance providers include urgent-care centers in their coverage. Since the cost of an urgent-care visit is far more affordable than an emergency-room visit, you can even choose to pay for treatment out of pocket.
Retail clinics differ from urgent-care centers in several ways, but the most important is in staffing. Retail clinics are not staffed by doctors. The medical professionals who assess and treat patients are usually nurse practitioners and physician assistants. In fact, the clinics are often offered as a service by pharmacies and stores.
Retail clinics also do not have the same equipment available for assessing a patient's health. As a result, the services offered by retail clinics tend to be less expensive than those offered at an urgent-care facility or emergency room.
If you are seeking treatment for a child, it is important to note that some retail clinics have age limitations. By contrast, urgent-care centers can see children of any age.
Which Is Right for You?
Due to limitations in the staff and equipment on hand, only minor illnesses are treated at a retail clinic. For instance, allergies, sinus infections, wart removal, and minor skin infections are treated in retail clinics. More serious health conditions, such as bronchitis, could be treatable. Whether or not such conditions are treatable for a retail clinic can vary by clinic.
Urgent-care facilities have the equipment and staff to handle more serious emergency situations. For instance, urgent-care centers can handle broken bones, burns, and lacerations. Some centers even perform minor surgeries. The centers can handle most medical situations that are not considered to be life-threatening.
To avoid a delay in treatment, opting for an assessment in an urgent-care center could be the better option.