In the late hour, if you need medical attention, where will you go? If I had asked you this question a few years ago, your answer would have been hospital emergency room. However, with the development and diversity in the healthcare world, you have more options than an emergency room. They are walk-in clinics and urgent care clinics. However, are they similar or different?
Many people consider walk-in clinics and urgent care as synonymous. But they are not similar. There are subtle differences between the two. However, often an urgent care clinic is a walk-in clinic. Therefore, what are a walk-in clinics and urgent care, what services do they provide, and when to go where? Let’s discover together the 5 differences between walk-in clinics and urgent care.
What Is a Walk-in Clinic?
A walk-in clinic is a healthcare center where you can see a medical professional without an appointment. It provides basic medical facilities at an affordable price. A walk-in clinic is a convenient and easily available facility as you will find it in any pharmacies or retailers near you.
A walk-in clinic usually provides primary health care like minor infections, low-level burns, cuts, basic non-serious illnesses like rash, common cold, an upset stomach, etc. It may also offer services like pregnancy tests, contraception, and basic immunization. However, they don’t deal with any serious medical condition.
A walk-in clinic usually offers care on a walk-in basis – first come, first serve. Typically, a nurse practitioner servers in these facilities may not have the license to write a prescription. However, they can call a doctor if your health condition is severe and need emergency medical attention.
What Is Urgent Care?
Now, what’s urgent care? Urgent care is a basic, convenient, and affordable health care facility with enhanced services. They treat more severe illnesses and injuries like simple broken bones, minor burns, serious infections, etc.
In addition, they also administer IVs, do stitches, provide X-rays, lab testing. However, you have to remember that they do not deal with any life-threatening health condition like heart attack, stroke, or significant trauma or injuries. In that case, you have to go to an emergency room. Urgent care is most often a walk-in clinic; you do not need an appointment to see the provider. However, the difference lies in their service and service provider.
In an urgent clinic, you will always get at least one licensed doctor. You may ask whether urgent care can refer to a specialist. The answer is “Yes.” If an urgent care provider can not treat your condition or have severe health issues like heart problems or severe trauma, your urgent care provider can refer you to a specialist.
5 Differences Between Walk-in Clinic and Urgent Care
Walk-in clinics and urgent care both are convenient, affordable, basic health care facilities. However, there are significant differences between the two.
Different Level of Caregiver
The most noticeable difference between walk-in clinics and urgent care is the level of medical providers. In a walk-in clinic, a nurse practitioner usually provides health care services. Usually, the nurse has advanced training and can prescribe drugs to treat your non-life-threatening health issue. Usually, you will get a walk-in clinic in the nearby pharmacies to take your medications from there.
In urgent care, on the contrary, a licensed physician usually provides medical care. The physician usually specializes in family or emergency medicine. You may also see a physician assistant or nurse practitioner, nurse, or radiologist in many urgent cares. The reason is, urgent care centers primarily provide some lab testing services like X-rays, blood tests, pregnancy tests, etc. However, they don’t offer sophisticated tests like MRI or CT scans.
Different Kinds of Care Provided
A walk-in clinic usually treats common health conditions that s are not severe or life-threatening. They typically provide treatment for:
- Severe cold
- Abnormal skin rashes
- Sinus and migraine
- Minor infections such as bladder or eye infection
- Minor burn
- Minor injuries or cut
- Upset stomach
- First aid to broken bones
- Pregnancy test
- Routine check-up
Urgent care provides more advanced treatment as most physicians and staff have the training to deal with emergency medical conditions. However, they treat only the non-life-threatening issues that need urgent or immediate care. Their services include-
- Deep lacerations
- Broken bones
- Minor burns
- Stomachache and upset stomach
- All kinds of vaccination including necessary vaccination for an international trip
- Urinary tract infections
- Rash or allergic reaction
- STD testing
- Pregnancy test
- Wellness Visit
- Non-sophisticated lab testing
- IV administration
Prescription, Medication, and Reference
Usually, a walk-in clinic is available at any pharmacy, even inside a retail store and a nurse practitioner usually provides services in a walk-in clinic. They can prescribe you medicine for small or minor issues that you can find in that pharmacy.
However, a walk-in provider cannot refer you to a specialist as it depends on a licensed doctor’s decision and prescription. Urgent care providers have licensed doctors so they can refer you to any specialist you need.
However, can urgent care prescribe medication? The answer is yes. They can prescribe medication, from pain killers to antibiotics. Their purpose is to provide you with quick and immediate care to solve your non-life-threatening health issue. They can also run tests to diagnose your health conditions.
Urgent Care and Walk-in Clinic: When To Go
Both walk-in clinics and urgent care don’t require an appointment, are often remain open at night and on weekends, and provide basic and affordable services. However, which one is suitable depends on your health condition and the services you need at that time.
Go to a walk-in clinic when you have the following-
- When your primary care doctor’s office is closed, or they are unavailable
- When you need medical attention for conditions that are not life-threatening, such as common cold, bronchitis, ear infections, sore throats, minor infections, rashes, minor sprains, and cuts that don’t need stitches
- When you need precautionary care such as vaccinations and high blood pressure or diabetes, through screening tests
Go to the urgent clinic when you have the following-
- When your primary care doctor’s office is closed, or they are not available
- When you need care for a condition that is not life-threatening but needs immediate treatment that includes cuts requiring stitches, a small fracture, or a minor allergy or asthma attack
Urgent Care VS. Walk-in Clinic Cost
Both walk-in clinics and urgent care are affordable than an emergency room. Moreover, both take insurance. Walk-in clinics are usually more affordable for less severe conditions and preventive care. They typically cost less than $100. In addition, if you have insurance, including Medicare, you will likely have to cover only your copay. However, it’s safe to check with your insurer about any limitations first.
Urgent care centers are suitable and more affordable for acute conditions like flu-like symptoms and minor injury. The cost is moderate, usually less than $200. If you have insurance, including Medicare, you have to cover just your copay; however, check with your insurer first for any limitations.
Walk-in clinics and urgent care are affordable and convenient health care facilities where you can get satisfactory services for any non-life-threatening conditions. However, where you will go depends on the medical attention you need. As you now know the 5 differences between walk-in clinics and urgent care, it would be easier for you to choose your best treatment destination.
MyConciergeMD, is an exclusive health care facility where the doctors and staffs are ready to provide you any immediate service with their walk-in urgent care. Their target is your overall well-being through their holistic, individualized treatment. In their expert hands, your health and fitness are totally ensured.