Archive | April, 2013

A Comparative Study Of Primary Health Care, Emergency Care And Urgent Care

27 Apr

Depending on the nature and scope of treatments offered, health care providers can be classified into one of many general categories of care.  It can often be confusing to know the difference between types of providers, so this study will set out to examine the major types of providers and offer a comparison and benefit analysis.


Primary health care is often considered to be the first point of contact a patient has into the health care system when they need treatment or a checkup of their health problems.  A primary care provider may be a primary care physician, general practitioner or family physician and if the situation calls for treatment beyond their capability, they will usually coordinate that treatment with the appropriate specialist.  Sometimes people may also see a physician’s assistant or a nurse practitioner for their medical needs.  Given their frequent interaction with their patients, family doctors have a good understanding of their patients’ medical history, their current health and their future healthcare goals.

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On the other end of the health care spectrum are emergency rooms.  They exist specifically to treat potentially life threatening emergencies. In order to accomplish that mission, they are open 24 hours a day and have all the necessary equipment, facilities, and emergency staff to address almost any medical issue. Typically they are located within a hospital complex, but recent trends have seen stand-alone ERs growing rapidly.  Patients are seen based on the severity of their injuries, which can result in extensive wait times to see a doctor if the patients’ illness or injury is not truly serious.


Urgent care sits right in between a primary care provider and an emergency room.  It is similar to emergency medicine in that it is designed to provide quick treatment to patients in need.  However, unlike emergency rooms, urgent care centers offer treatment to patients with non-life threatening injuries or illnesses.  In this way, they are similar to a primary care physician.  A patient will typically visit urgent care when they either do not have a primary care doctor, or else their discomfort is such that they do not want to wait for an appointment at their primary care doctor.  Since they are designed to fill the gap between an ER and primary care, an urgent care clinic is typically open beyond normal business hours and is open on weekends.

In order for patients to make the best choice among the options available to them, a careful comparison of the benefits and services provided by these different health care systems must be done.   It is clear that medical issues which are threatening to one’s life can only be treated most effectively and efficiently in an emergency room.  Yet for other non-life-threatening issues, there are many other important points to examine, such as cost considerations, wait times, the overall time necessary for treatment and overall convenience.

Various studies have examined the costs of treatment in different facilities for several of the most common ailments. The conclusion of those studies has been considered rather surprising.  Receiving treatment at an urgent care center is often cheaper than visiting an emergency room, or even visiting a primary care physician.  This holds true whether paying for the treatment in full or when using insurance, as the co-pay for an urgent care visit will often be lower than the co-pay for an emergency room visit.  Depending on the type of insurance, an urgent care visit may even have lower co-pay than a primary care visit.  In addition to having a higher co-pay, an emergency room visit may result in two separate charges – one from emergency room and one from the physician who treats you.  An urgent care visit will only result in one charge.

In so far as wait time and the overall time necessary for treatment in the different facilities are concerned, urgent care centers are once again considered to be the best and most preferable option for minor medical issues.  Emergency rooms treat patients with the most serious conditions first, so any patients with less urgent needs will wait longer to see a doctor.  And when considering the severe and critical nature of diseases dealt with in emergency rooms, it makes sense that the time taken for the treatment of these cases is longer. Primary care doctors typically utilize an appointment style system, which means they rarely have same day or next day availability.  Once an appointment is finally scheduled, the patient may end up facing a long wait in the lobby anyways as appointments inevitably run long and the doctor always seems to be running behind.  Urgent care centers only see patients with non-life-threatening conditions on a first-come, first-serve basis and as the patients are there to receive treatment on a specific issue, the doctors do not spend additional time addressing extraneous items.  All of these reasons help make urgent care centers increasingly popular, and convenient, for the modern patient.


Urgent Care Centers Are For Modern Changing Times

7 Apr

Of late urgent care centers have become more and more popular among people who don’t want to wait for an appointment with a doctor, and instead are looking for instant walk-in medical services.  According to the Adelaide Research and Scholarship journal article – “Time scarcity: another health inequality?”, people need time to access health services, build close relationships, exercise, work, play, care and consume-all activities that are fundamental to our health.  However, the article further states that another impact of time scarcity may be the prevention of activities and behaviors critical for good health.  Today, everyone is busy.  They have time for tweeting and driving (hopefully not together) but have little time for their health and family.  As such, due to a lack of time or otherwise, many people are delaying or going without care for illnesses or injuries that need treatment.  For these people, a visit to an urgent care center may be a logical and reasonable solution for when they have an illness that is not life threatening.  An urgent care center can help them save time for the other pressing things in life.  There is no reason to wait for an appointment to consult a family doctor when their next available appointment is weeks away, or wait for hours at a hospital emergency room.  In most circumstances, you would probably prefer to see a doctor who is aware of your constraints and has the time to give you personalized attention.

For a patient with time constraints, what is better than a doctor who can see you at a moment’s notice?  There is a marked difference between today’s society and previous generations.  While previous generations were healthier and had to deal with perhaps a more limited number of more serious diseases, today we are fatter, sicker and weaker and also have to deal with a myriad of diseases and ailments.  However, notwithstanding all these negative factors, we are fortunate to have many great options and alternatives in our healthcare system; starting with primary care to secondary care, tertiary care, home and community care or public health.  In addition, we have general hospitals, emergency rooms, primary doctors, and urgent care centers to cater to our every health care needs.  Interestingly, Darwin’s theories of evolution regarding the survival of the fittest seems to still hold good today, yet now it is the best and most timely service which receives the most attention.  Urgent care centers, as a relatively new option, have been gaining in popularity as they present a great alternative to patients whose primary concerns are time and money. In spite of their growth, many remain ignorant of urgent care as a better alternative to other more traditional facilities and thus end up spending more money and time than necessary seeking care.  By taking the time to discover which service truly best suits their needs and circumstances, patients can easily take care of the health and well-being of their family.

Many people seem to resist change, even positive changes, for no rhyme or reason.  There are always improvements being made in the allocation of resources for more efficient utilization of those resources and thus better results, yet many people find a comfort zone and refuse to venture out from it.  In simple terms, life-threatening medical issues are meant to be handled in hospital emergency rooms for obvious reasons, whereas minor and common diseases and injuries can best be handled in urgent care centers as these centers are created, designed, and equipped for such issues. Yet people continually return to an ER for treatment that could best be handled elsewhere, all because they are either unaware of their alternatives, or because they are unwilling to examine those alternatives and find a better option.

Urgent care centers are well equipped to treat any minor trauma quickly and generally at a cheaper cost than other medical facilities. You will still see the same type of doctors who are found at hospital emergency rooms, meaning they are board-certified and typically have emergency room experience.  Urgent care centers are also well staffed with a highly committed and dedicated support and nursing staff who are specialized and trained for the purpose of dealing with such common medical issues.  Times change and we need to change accordingly.  Urgent care centers are a great alternative for our modern times.