“Houston, we have a problem.” That sentence is perhaps one of the most iconic in American history, but these days, Houston has earned a new reputation as a high tech center of medical excellence. With a population of almost 2.2 million people, Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States and the largest city in Texas. In addition to its traditional industrial base in energy and aeronautics, including NASA, Houston is rapidly becoming a leader in the health care sector thanks to the internationally renowned Texas Medical Center. The Texas Medical Center has the world’s largest concentration of research and healthcare institutions ranging from the MD Anderson Cancer Center to the Menninger Clinic which specializes in psychiatric treatment. Throughout Houston there are 13 hospitals, two medical schools, four nursing schools, as well as schools of dentistry, pharmacy and all other fields related to health care. Yet one of the fastest growth areas in the Houston medical industry has been Urgent Care Centers.
The urgent care industry began in the 1970s and has since ballooned to over 10,000 clinics across the United States. The number of urgent care centers in Houston has grown to over 100. These clinics are highly cost effective and provide a level of care on par with primary care doctors or an emergency room in urgent medical situations. They are an effective alternative to the traditional hospital emergency room with doctors, nurses and staff to provide care and protect the health of those patients in need. Urgent care clinics in Houston can provide emergency medications, ultrasound screenings, digital X-rays, perform simple blood, urine and drug tests, and some clinics can even perform CAT scans and advanced laboratory services. If additional follow up is needed, patients can be directed to the appropriate specialist, out-patient surgery center, or facility for advanced imaging such as MRIs or even physical-therapy.
According to the 2010 census, roughly 27.5% of all Houston residents are under the age of 18 which equates to about 575,000 people. Common diseases like the flu and sinus infections and injuries resulting from accidents such as broken bones and sprains or burns and stings are more often found in minors. This is due to the variety of their environments, ranging from the home to school, and the fact that kid’s play can result in injuries. Working parents face significant challenges when it comes to treating their kids without interrupting their schooling or extracurricular schedule. A visit to a primary care doctor will likely take several days to schedule and will require the child to miss school. This is another area where the urgent care centers in Houston show their usefulness. They are located throughout the city and will be able to treat patients at their convenience. Most of these centers are privately owned but they still provide unique and quality care and are managed professionally like the public health system.
For the rest of Houstonians, accidents and disease are still significant issues and can be even more disruptive. Therefore it becomes ever more important to understand exactly what services and treatments are provided by urgent care centers, as well as their limitations, so as to ensure proper care is received. Some of the urgent care centers in Houston don’t provide 24 hours, 7 days a week service, but they are open after traditional working hours and on weekends. In addition, they provide a specialized set of medical services. For true medical emergencies, patients need to be treated at an emergency room. ERs are fully equipped to handle all kinds of medical issues while urgent care centers specialize in non-emergency treatments. However, for patients who do not need emergency treatment, urgent care centers are an excellent way to avoid the ER wait while still receiving high quality treatment at a reasonable cost. It can be helpful to think of urgent care centers as providing similar services to a primary care doctor, but without the long wait for an appointment. It is always a good idea to check with the urgent care center to verify that the treatment you need is offered and they are open at a convenient time. In Houston, there are several online sources where you can check out the list of clinics nearby you, which services they provide as well as their hours of operation and the availability of doctors. In medical situations, information can be vital, so coming to your local urgent care center prepared will make treatment that much smoother.
With a strong tradition of medical excellence, Houston offers its residents many quality options to receive care. Urgent care clinics represent one of the newest additions to the Houston medical community and will continue to provide patients with quality care at an affordable price and at locations convenient to patients all across the city.