Can Urgent Care Be A Replacement For Primary Care?

emergency centerUrgent care clinics have continued to grow in popularity in recent years, partially due to the fact that patients can seek treatment options that are both affordable and convenient. When you have urgent medical needs, heading to walk-in clinic is typically a good idea. But while urgent care facilities are often a welcome alternative to going to an emergency center in a hospital or trying to make an appointment with your doctor, that doesn't mean urgent care should be your go-to in every single circumstance -- nor should urgent care be used to completely replace primary care facilities and ERs.

Urgent care is an excellent option when you don't have a primary care doctor
Whether you've just moved to a new area or need to make the switch from pediatric care to primary care, a lot of people find themselves without a regular physician at some point. And considering that the U.S. will likely need nearly 52,000 additional primary care physicians by 2025 to meet our health care utilization needs, these circumstances will likely become more common in the coming years. If you don't have a regular doctor but need medical help -- to get a prescription filled for allergies or a UTI, to treat a cut or sprain, or to get flu treatment -- urgent care centers are going to be your best bet. Although going to the emergency center is appropriate when situations become potentially life-threatening, urgent care staff members can diagnose and treat minor issues that should not go ignored.

Unable to secure an appointment with your physician? Head to urgent care
Even if you do have a primary care doctor, that doesn't mean it's always easy to get an appointment with them. When you can't take time off from work for a doctor's appointment or you're told there are no openings for a week or so, you still have options for medical treatment. Unless it's an actual medical emergency, you should not go to an emergency center; you'll end up paying much more than necessary and you'll likely have to wait for a longer period to see a doctor. Walk-in urgent care centers don't require appointments and offer much greater flexibility, which means you can seek medical care after work, on the weekends, or even during the holidays.

However, it's still best to have a primary care doctor
At its core, urgent care is not meant to totally replace primary care, nor is it meant to address issues that are deemed medical emergencies. It really works best as a supplement to primary care and as a possible alternative to emergency room care. Your primary care doctor will be familiar with your complete medical history and can refer you to specialists, if necessary. And if you find yourself in a life-threatening situation, the ER is the only place you should go. However, for situations that don't necessarily warrant a visit to either your doctor's office or the ER, going to urgent care can be the best solution. While there are countless benefits that come along with going to urgent care, it's not necessarily a long-term substitution for primary care. For most people, having both options will provide the highest level of medical care.