How to Decide if you Should go to a Walk-in clinic or an Emergency Room

Injuries and accidents are an unavoidable part of life. Thus, there are specialized medical centres dedicated to taking care of these situations. Whenever you need to see a medical practitioner in an emergency for one reason or the other, there is usually the question of whether you should visit a walk-in clinic or go directly to an emergency room.

How to Decide if you Should go to a Walk-in clinic

If you are underinsured, uninsured, or don’t have a primary care provider, you must understand your options for seeking healthcare. Several factors affect what choice you make concerning what type of medical centre to request attention from, and that is what this article will be centred on today. 

What Is an Emergency Room?

This post will discuss what emergency rooms and walk-in clinics are, their various functions, their pros & cons, and in what situations you should visit either of them. 

Urgent care

The emergency room is a department in a hospital or medical center, but you don’t require an appointment to receive medical attention, unlike the doctor’s office. As patients can come at anytime requesting treatment, injuries or ailments, in this case, are treated according to their level of urgency. 

Pros of the ER

  • 24 hour available: Emergency rooms are prepared for all types of procedures, including surgery all day all night which makes them a very dependable medical caregiver.
  • Prepared for anything: ER is always ready for the worst-case scenario, which means depending on the gravity of the patient’s situation, surgery or amputation can be carried out minutes after the patient arrives.

Cons of the ER

  • Overcrowding: Due to the vast array of activities occurring in the emergency room, it is usually a chaotic and unsettling place to be.
  • Prioritized treatment: As all sorts of patients with different levels of injuries or illnesses troop here, attention is always directed towards most serious cases. Unfortunately, this means those with less severe problems have to wait sometimes for hours before receiving any attention.

What Are Walk-In Clinics?

In the health care industry, walk-in clinics are referred to as any healthcare provider that provides urgent care without a previously set appointment. These walk-in clinics were initially designed to offer healthcare options to those without insurance, thus providing walk-in-care for basic medical services at a considerably lower cost than that offered by emergency rooms. From being created as a substitute for the ER, Walk-in clinics have evolved into a viable healthcare option for anyone in need of urgent care. 

The roles of Walk-in clinics

Walk-in Clinics are not usually equipped to be able to handle serious or life-threatening emergencies, but they can offer treatment for common, non-life-threatening ailments like;

  • Serious earache
  • Fever
  • Severe cold or flu
  • Abnormal rash
  • Unusual or severe migraine

The role of these walk-in clinics also includes serving and treating patients suffering from minor injuries, including;

  • Back pain
  • Minor broken bone
  • Sprains
  • Minor cuts and burns
  • Mild eye injury

Visiting a Walk-in-Clinic

A trip to a walk-in clinic is generally a stress-free and comfortable experience, as the doctors and nurses are understandably more relaxed and in higher spirits than those found in the ER. When you visit a walk-in clinic, your experience is pretty predictable. Although they don’t all operate the same manner, you can expect your visit to be similar to the following;

  • A short wait: Unlike most people expect, there is still a waiting period when you see a doctor at a walk-in clinic. Although the doctors would prefer to see their patients instantaneously, it is the best practice that physicians spend ample time on each patient to ensure the patients are provided quality care as it considerably reduces when they are trying to rush them out. However, the wait time at these clinics is usually between 15-30 minutes, a much shorter wait than at an ER or doctor’s office. 
  • Friendly service: Emergency rooms are typically packed full, with different life-threatening challenges occupying the attention of the physicians. This sadly, through no fault of their own, results in more stressed-out doctors who don’t have the energy nor time to be friendly and courteous. But since walk-in-clinics don’t handle cases of that severity, the atmosphere is usually more calm and serene, a more suitable place for children who get nervous when receiving medical treatment. 
  • Quality care: Although the clinics are not adequately equipped to handle life-threatening illnesses or injuries properly, they excel at providing quality care for illnesses and injuries of a lesser scale like muscle strains, deep cuts, and flu symptoms. Generally, physicians at walk-in clinics take their time with patients to properly diagnose and prescribe treatment portions for each patient they receive. In case the clinic feels they can’t adequately treat your ailment, they can recommend a better-suited specialist or hospital to you. 
  • Diagnosis and Treatment: Walk-in clinics can accurately diagnose and treat patients for most minor illnesses and injuries. They have a variety of high-level testing options readily available to them, including conducting blood tests, x-rays, etc. After diagnosis, the physicians can provide treatment for you in various ways like bandaging wounds, administering pain medication, among others. 

Benefits of Walk-in Clinics

It frees up the emergency room

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Emergency rooms have a terrible rep concerning how overcrowded it usually gets. This is usually because many people go to the emergency room for minor injuries or illnesses. This causes treatment to be delayed for people who need it, and walk-in clinics help take the non-emergent patients, unclogging the ER. 

Lower cost

A trip to a walk-in clinic is considerably less expensive than a trip to the emergency room. A walk-in clinic accepting your insurance means that you should only have to pay the copay and a little portion of the cost for treatment received. 

Proper treatment

Walk-in clinics are filled with experienced doctors and nurses dedicated to providing the best care to their patients. In addition, many urgent care doctors were formerly private workers or ER physicians, which means that choosing to visit a walk-in centre instead of an emergency room does not imply a drop in quality of service. 

Quick service

These types of clinics are designed specifically to get patients in and out as fast as possible. It functions on a first-come-first-serve basis, which means you know exactly when it is your turn to receive attention. 

How To Choose A Walk-in Clinic

During urgent situations, it is important to know where to go to save time, money and have some peace of mind. Below are seven inquisitive questions you need to ask before deciding on your choice of medical centre;

  • Where is it located? If a health issue should arise, you don’t want to have to drive a long distance to get help, and you’ll prefer to be able to receive attention in proximity. 
  • Does your preferred walk-in clinic accept your insurance? You’ll have to check with your insurance provider to find out if your policy will cover the clinic’s costs. Many healthcare plans offer in-network coverage, but the availability of copays depends on the location.
  • What type of providers work at a walk-in clinic? Most walk-in clinics offer various provider types, from physicians to nurses to specialists, someone who studied a specific subject of medicine. 
  • Can a walk-in appointment be booked online? Walk-in clinics provide services for you in a shorter amount of time than if you had gone straight to a hospital. In less than 30 minutes, you will have seen a physician. This speed of service means that you don’t have to set appointments before visiting a walk-in clinic. 
  • Will my primary care provider be aware of my visit? Although most walk-in clinics aren’t directly affiliated with a primary care provider, some clinics offer a 2 for one deal. 

Pros of Walk-in clinics

Flexible business hours:- Several walk-in clinics have extended business hours and remain open during weekends and evenings.

Upfront pricing:- These clinics are direct about how much they charge for what treatment. As it is displayed within the reception area, patients know the exact cost medical care will cost them.

Expedited consultations:- Walk-in clinics are perfect who individuals who don’t like to wait or are in a hurry. The personnel at the clinics are effective, concise, and direct in their approach to treatment. 

Cons of Walk-in clinics

Limited treatment capability. Walk-in clinics usually focus on handling minor conditions like allergies and the flu. They are not suitable for major injuries like fractures and impalement.

Nonexistent long-term relationship. Due to the quick-fire method applied by walk-in clinics, it is difficult to form and maintain a relationship with the medical workers as they are usually rotated. 

Emergency rooms and Walk-in clinics are essential parts of the medical care sector as they are designed to divide the labour. First, you must know what both centres operate as. The ER functions as a place for the most severe cases, while the walk-in clinics are more suited to more mild situations like deep cuts and sprains. Thus, unless you have an illness or injury above the capabilities of a walk-in clinic, you will be better off visiting one instead.