We’ve all seen the buildings around us advertising that they are urgent care centers. But what does that actually mean? Are they really a hospital or do they perform some other function? Many people aren’t sure when they should consider going to an urgent care center, so here’s what you should know as to the kind of care they actually provide.

Urgent Medical Conditions

Before you consider going to an urgent care clinic, you should first know what constitutes an urgent medical condition. This is different from an emergency situation where you should actually go to a hospital. A few urgent medical conditions include:

  • Fever or a flu
  • An accident or fall
  • Breathing difficulties, such as mild to moderate asthma
  • Skin rashes
  • Minor broken bones o fractures
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Vomiting, dehydration, or diarrhea

Though this is a small list, you can get the gist of what constitutes an urgent medical condition. These can typically be described as conditions requiring medical attention, but they are not life-threatening. They could, however, get worse if they are left untreated.

What Is Considered A Medical Emergency?

To distinguish when you should actually go to a hospital or emergency room, here are a few emergency conditions you should not go to an urgent care facility:

  • Convulsions, seizures, or loss of consciousness
  • Severe burns
  • Uncontrollable bleeding
  • Knife or gunshot wounds
  • Compound fractures
  • Problems related to pregnancy
  • Poisoning
  • Severe abdominal or chest pains
  • Symptoms of a heart attack

An urgent care facility isn’t equipped to help you with these problems and you should head to a hospital immediately or call 911 if you are unable to drive yourself to an ER.

Does Urgent Care Provide Some Benefits?

Although urgent care is not meant to replace your primary care physician, it can serve as an alternative source of medical treatment when your primary care physician isn’t in their office or you can’t get an appointment with them. Here are some other important benefits of having urgent care centers.

  • Convenient Hours: they are open seven days a week and even in the evenings when most doctors’ offices are closer. You don’t need an appointment either, you can just walk right in.
  • Cost-efficient: an urgent care facility will charge a fraction of the cost of going to a hospital emergency room. Most urgent care clinics accept Medicare and Medicaid too.
  • Accessibility: there are more and more urgent care centers being opened up every year so that there is better access to medical care. There may be one major hospital in your area and anywhere between 2 to 10 urgent care clinics in the same area.
  • Less Waiting: sitting in a hospital waiting room eats up a lot of time that could be used to provide you with treatment. Even if you walk into a clinic, you’re likely to only wait about 20 minutes before you’re seen by a doctor.

Urgent care facilities are definitely making it easier for those who can’t afford to take time out of their day to make an appointment with their doctor or sit in a waiting room all day. But please remember that they should not be used for emergency situations; you should go to a hospital immediately in these situations.