In our lifetimes, health is the truest form of wealth, and maintaining health and a high standard of living depends on access to and availability of quality healthcare. To cure the numerous illnesses that one could suffer throughout their lifetime, it is necessary to live a healthy lifestyle and have access to the required level of care.
It is also essential to have access to first-rate healthcare services that can efficiently and promptly address our needs. Recently, the way that patients look for medical care has altered. Under the traditional model, patients choose a doctor through their insurance provider’s website based on in-network status, acceptance of new patients, and proximity. Based on a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 26 percent of adults do not have that one person they think of as their primary care doctor or healthcare provider.
Patients are increasingly choosing convenience over primary care alternatives due to cost considerations, schedule convenience, and other factors.
Urgent care centers
There have been substantial shifts in the venues where people receive care for low-acuity conditions. Today, urgent care centers and retail clinics have become popular options for patients seeking quick and easy access to healthcare services, whereas emergency department utilization has decreased.  Urgent care facilities offer several benefits, such as convenient access to healthcare services without scheduling appointments or waiting for hours. They also provide quicker wait times and lower costs, benefiting patients with minor illnesses or injuries, those in need of flu shots or other vaccines, and even school sports physicals.
Urgent care centers and retail clinics are designed to provide convenient, walk-in healthcare services to patients with non-life-threatening medical conditions. These facilities are typically staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants, who can diagnose and treat a wide range of common illnesses and injuries, including colds and flu, minor cuts and burns, and sprains and strains. Patients have the ability to receive the care they need when they need it without the hassle of scheduling appointments, waiting for hours in a crowded waiting room, or paying high fees for emergency room visits.
These facilities frequently have extended hours and are available seven days a week to serve patients who are unable to reach their primary care physician during regular business hours. Without making an appointment, patients can walk in whenever they like and receive rapid attention from a licensed healthcare provider. The shorter wait times can be especially beneficial for patients with minor illnesses or injuries who do not require the specialized care offered by emergency rooms.
This convenience of urgent care is a significant attractor for many, and it allows for on-demand service that can bypass the need for an appointment. The lower cost of urgent care centers and retail clinics is another benefit patients find appealing. The cost savings can be significant for patients without health insurance or those with high deductibles.
While these alternatives to primary care physicians offer several benefits, they also have drawbacks, and patients must weigh the pros and cons before deciding which type of facility to use to receive care.
The down-sides of convenience
There are also some drawbacks to choosing convenience over primary care. Urgent care centers and retail clinics may not offer the same continuity of care as primary care physicians, who can track patients’ health over time and develop a comprehensive understanding of their medical history. These facilities may also lack the same level of access to patient records and medical histories, which can make it challenging to provide effective, coordinated care.
Urgent care centers and retail clinics also may not be equipped to handle more complex medical conditions or emergencies. Patients with severe or life-threatening illnesses or injuries should seek care at an emergency room rather than an urgent care center or retail clinic to ensure they can receive time-sensitive and needed care. These convenient facilities may not offer the same range of services as primary care physicians, such as ongoing management of chronic conditions.
Despite these possible limitations, these institutions are becoming the top choice for primary care services for individuals who opt for convenience and accessibility. According to the Urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA), urgent care centers represented 18.2 percent of all primary care visits and 9.7 percent of outpatient physician visits in 2018.
How to receive high-quality care at convenient locations
While urgent care centers and retail clinics may not offer the same level of continuity of care as primary care physicians, patients can take steps to ensure that they receive high-quality medical attention. Patients should choose facilities that are accredited and staffed by qualified healthcare professionals. They should also ensure that their medical records are up-to-date and accessible to their healthcare providers, regardless of where they receive care. This can help healthcare providers better understand their patient’s medical history and provide more effective, coordinated care.
In addition, patients should communicate openly and honestly with their healthcare providers about their medical history, symptoms, and concerns. This can help healthcare providers make more accurate diagnoses and develop more effective treatment plans. Patients should also follow up with their primary care physician after receiving care at an urgent care center or retail clinic to ensure that their care is coordinated correctly and that any necessary follow-up care is provided. It is imperative to keep proper documentation and record of your prescribed medications, previous medical history, and more to ensure ease of care and eliminate any stress resulting from going to a mix of different service providers.
Laboratory environments in healthcare services
Laboratories are crucial in supporting healthcare providers’ ability to diagnose and treat patients effectively. They provide critical information about patients’ medical conditions by analyzing blood, urine, and tissue samples. Many primary care physicians rely on clinical or hospital laboratories for their diagnostic testing. However, some urgent care facilities now offer x-rays, EKG diagnostics, and lab workups on-site, adding to the convenience.