If you’ve ever had a non-life-threatening injury but still needed treatment, you may have found yourself in a tricky position. You don’t want to spend time and money in the ER, but you also can’t wait for an appointment. So, what can you do? Urgent care and walk-in facilities are both viable options, but not everyone knows the difference, which can significantly impact the care you receive. Before you get in a medical muddle, let’s look at the difference between these two care facilities and their services.
What Is a Walk-In Clinic?
Walk-ins, which are sometimes called “retail clinics,” are first come, first served facilities. The benefit of attending a walk-in clinic is that they can provide fast and affordable medical care. Typically, walk-in clinics are staffed by physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Copayments are usually much lower than in urgent care facilities. Walk-in clinics can only treat uncomplicated illnesses such as scrapes and bruises, skin conditions, and illnesses like the cold and flu. Some facilities may offer physicals and health screenings, but the equipment is often limited.
What Is an Urgent Care Facility?
Urgent care facilities only treat non-life-threatening injuries and illnesses and offer a wider array of services. Unlike walk-ins, an urgent care facility can offer lab testing and X-ray imaging. Staff can treat broken bones, give stitches, and care for burns.
At least one doctor and a physician are in the facility, although this number may increase depending on the size of the medical center. Keep in mind that these individuals are not equipped to handle invasive surgeries or any procedures requiring anesthesia.
Which Medical Center Should You Visit?
Ultimately, the difference between urgent care and walk-in facilities is that one offers more services than the other. Urgent care can also be a walk-in facility and take walk-in patients and reservations. However, a walk-in facility isn’t necessarily an urgent care. They both treat non-life-threatening injuries, so you’re probably wondering where to go.
Visit a walk-in clinic if you have a minor illness or injury—the common cold, pink eye, or an insect sting. However, if you have a persistent fever, a broken bone, a severe burn, or a cut that requires stitches, you should go to an urgent care facility.
Never treat an urgent care facility or a walk-in clinic as a substitute for a primary care physician. Your primary care physician has a much broader understanding of your health history and conditions. If you’re unsure what facility to attend or if you should wait for an appointment, you can contact your physician to help you determine the next best step.