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For the days and hours that primary care physician offices are closed, urgent care centers provide easy-access quality healthcare.
Urgent care centers are designed for patients whose illnesses or injuries don’t present as life–threatening, but who can’t wait until a primary care physician can treat them. Very often, they are used to fill the gap between primary care physicians and emergency rooms, thus alleviating the strain on emergency rooms and their typically long wait times.
An urgent care center is highly recommended to supplement primary care, due to office hours that extend well into the evening and through the weekend. Most urgent care locations have on staff at least one medical doctor, who is available to see patients any time the doors are open. That said, you might see a nurse practitioner or physician assistant rather than a doctor. Additionally, most urgent care locations have on-site x-ray equipment and can handle more severe urgent care services such as broken bones, burns and other conditions that a walk-in retail clinics cannot.
The average urgent care patient waits 15 minutes or less to see a provider, and can expect a per-visit $35 to $55 insurance copay.
While some may tend to use an urgent care as a substitute for a primary care physician, it is not recommended, given a doctor’s insight into your medical records and family history. However, if you have a situation that you believe cannot wait until your doctor’s office is open, an urgent care visit may be prudent.