The Transition Network

New York City Chapter

URGENT CARE: When is it right for me?

(Posted March 1, 2018)

URGENT CARE: When is it right for me? 


by Barbara Stahura 
              

In my neighborhood, it is impossible to take a short walk without passing multiple signs proclaiming Urgent Care. There are more than 200 Urgent Care offices in New York City, part of a nationwide trend offering walk-in medical services as an alternative to an Emergency Department visit.  

Do you know when an Urgent Care Center may be the best, and less expensive, choice for immediate medical attention - and when urgent care is not a wise choice?
 
An Urgent Care Center could be the right alternative to an Emergency Department if you need stitches for a cut, x-rays to check for possible fracture after a fall, or IV fluid administration after a prolonged bout of vomiting.


It is never the right choice for someone having a seizure or chest pain.
 
An Urgent Care Center staffed by a Board Certified Emergency Medicine Physician was the best choice for TTN member Susan when she cut her finger with a new, and very sharp, mandolin slicer. Her accident happened on NYC Marathon Sunday, and Susan knew the Emergency Department near her home would be swamped with injured marathoners. Within a few minutes of arrival Susan's sliced finger was cleaned and stitched together by the Urgent Care Center's physician. She returned the following week to have the same MD remove her eight stitches.
   
For TTNer Amy a Saturday morning visit to Urgent Care was also a wise choice. She had just returned from vacation via a 9 hour flight and woke up with a severely swollen hand. When she called her MD he suggested going to the closest Urgent Care Center to check for a possible blood clot. The Urgent Care physician felt the swelling was most likely caused by holding an iPad upright for almost the entire 9 hour plane trip, and provided a splint to immobilize the hand. He also arranged an immediate ultrasound at Amy’s preferred hospital to definitively rule out a blood clot. The Urgent Care MD called Amy less than an hour later with the ultrasound report - no blood clots. She was able to enjoy the rest of her Saturday afternoon. 

Urgent Care was the right choice for Susan and Amy.
 
Talk to your primary care physician at your next visit. Ask about the best choices when you require prompt medical care, but the office is closed. 
  • Does she/he have a covering primary care group with evening/weekend hours?
  • Which Urgent Care Offices does he/she have a good working relationship with?
 
If you have chronic medical conditions or are undergoing treatment for an active medical problem, it is especially important to confirm with your physician exactly when it is safe to visit a Walk-in Medical Office/Urgent Care Center vs. when to call 911 for immediate transport to an Emergency Department.
 
A good reference to bring to that "what if" discussion with your physician is found here: http://www.mountsinai.org/patient-care/service-areas/urgent-care/what-is-urgent-care
 
I recommend that you visit a few Urgent Care Centers near your home on a quiet weekday, before you need their services.
 

Ask these questions:

  • Do they participate in all your insurance plans? Is there a visit co-pay?
  • What is the training of all on-site medical providers? Is there a board certified MD present at all times?
  • What tests/procedures are performed on site?
  • Do they regularly refer to your preferred hospital/health system?
  • How will they communicate with your personal physician? Phone? Written report? Documentation in a system-wide electronic medical record?
 
 

Barbara Stahura was a healthcare executive at academic medical centers and physician practice management consulting firms. Part of the Caring Collaborative leadership since 2014, and was previously the Chair. Currently serves as Co-Chair  of  the Explore NYC Committee.

 

Material from www.thetransitionnetwork.org, 16:35:19 July 26, 2021.
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