Urgent Care Spotlight

By: Lori B. Gaylor, PA-C, MPAS, DFAAPA

National Urgent Care Awareness Month was in the month of May, but with Coronavirus taking the headlines, most of us were unaware this month passed in the blink of an eye. The conversation and spotlight on this specialty should be continued beyond one month. National Urgent Care Awareness Month is held each May to celebrate the exceptional contributions of clinicians and professionals in urgent care and on-demand medicine, and to bring awareness to this vital industry.
According to the Urgent Care Association 2019 Benchmarking report, there are nearly 10,000 urgent care centers nationwide. Over 14,000 patient visits occur in EACH urgent care center every year. Multiply that by the number of urgent care centers in the nation, and that is quite a few patients.
When is the right time to be seen in urgent care, and when is it most appropriate to be seen in another type facility? Urgent care facilities are best utilized for non-life-threatening urgent medical situations, such as coughs, colds, flu, sprains, strains, non-displaced fractures, urinary tract infections, sore throats, minor wounds and lacerations, and many types of other illnesses. If there is an immediate threat to life or limb, it is most appropriate to call 911 or proceed to the nearest emergency room.
It is typically advisable to have a good primary care provider who takes care of a patient’s ongoing medical health, but sometimes there is either lack of availability, or there are financial or social reasons this may not be possible. An urgent care facility can be a great way to have access to quality medical care to help fill that gap. Not all urgent care facilities are created equal, so choice of an accredited or certified center can be helpful. Always be sure to follow up if symptoms are worsening or are not improving, and if you do have a primary care provider, be sure to keep them in the loop!
During the current coronavirus crisis, many urgent care facilities have become excellent resources for COVID-19 testing and counseling. Since these facilities are often the first contact for ill patients, many have become experts in these quickly changing times. Some urgent care centers are certified or accredited through one of the national bodies that oversee quality processes and procedures in urgent care facilities. A few are even JCAHO accredited, a standard that many other medical facilities and hospitals must comply with.
We should celebrate and appreciate our hardworking urgent care owners and staff all year long. This is not an easy industry, and these facilities are helping to alleviate the overcrowding of our emergency departments, especially during the recent global pandemic. Urgent care centers are vital for convenient, affordable, high-quality care which makes patients lives easier and healthier. Thank you, Urgent Care!

See Lori B. Gaylor, PA-C, MPAS, DFAAPA speak at the GAPA 2020 Conference in Sandestin, Florida September 5-9, 2020.

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