A Dr. Momma Minute
Summer is ending and as we enter the fall and winter, it will soon become cold and flu season. This means there will be a lot more visits to physician offices for many people. However, there is a growing number of people who believe they have found a way to get great care on a consistent basis without needing the planned trip to their primary care. How, you ask? Well, they have discovered urgent care centers.
Back in the day, the only options to get treatment were visiting your physician or the Emergency room (ER). This actually forced people to decide…hmmm, is this really an emergency? Do I really want to pay the extra-large ER copay? Or wait the many hours that come with those emergency visits? Because people had to do this soul searching, many times the answer was no! And then they would call their physician in the morning to set up an appointment.
Noways, there are urgent care centers located on nearly every corner. Seriously, I drive by at least 4 every single day. This type of healthcare facility has absolutely filled an important role by allowing people to be seen and treated for problems that have suddenly happen.
No longer do you have to wait to have your sick child evaluated for recurrent ear infections or strep throat. Now you can get that twisted ankle checked out and treated without taking time away from ER physicians who need to use precious time to treat heart attack, stroke and trauma victims. Yes, when urgent care centers were born, it was a win-win for everyone.
But these centers were NEVER intended to replace your primary care physician. Nope, everyone needs a great primary care physician who knows about all the different things that are happening with your health. Somehow, increasing numbers of people decided that the convenience of popping into these urgent care centers was more important than discussing recurrent or chronic problems with their own physicians. This is a bad trend that we need to reverse.
Any time an illness or injury happens that needs to be treated in one of these urgent care centers, I highly suggest you call your physician and make a followup appointment. Please understand that it is not a good idea for your local urgent care centers to know more about your child’s ear infections and breathing problems than your physician. Although many of them send notes to your physician, their role is NOT to manage your underlying chronic problems. They exist to treat what is bothering you today while your personal physicians are there to look for patterns and consider methods to prevent recurrent events.
Tips to best use urgent care centers.
1. Do not use them for convenience for chronic problems.
Stomach pain for a week and check it out Saturday morning? No. Child’s rash for a week, check it out at night after soccer practice? No.
2. Do not use them for severe problems
Urgent is different from life-threatening! When minutes matter for severe symptoms, it is best to go to an emergency room. Excessive bleeding, severe sicknesses, dizziness, and vision changes are some examples of problems that might not be best suited for urgent care centers because these may need CT or MRI or more extensive workups.
3. Know which type of patients are accepted at your local urgent care centers.
Based on the expertise of the healthcare professionals on staff, all urgent care centers are not the same and do not have the same capabilities for treatment. Some do not care for young children or elderly patients. It is important to call centers before you go to ask if they can treat your problem.
As a pediatric surgeon, I loved learning about the creation of urgent care centers dedicated solely to kids. This network of centers is called PM Pediatrics and has been opening new centers around the country. Since kids are not just mini-adults, if your child needs urgent care, check out one of these specialty centers if there is one near you. Shout out to my colleague Dr. Christina Johns who has helped spread the word about this new era in urgent care.
4. Understand urgent care centers are NOT the same as immediate care centers.
Often located in pharmacies as boutique healthcare centers. Usually, no physicians so staffed with NP or PA. Some states have recently started to allow pharmacists to prescribe medication and provide medical advice. This is awesome when discussing the medications already prescribed by your physician, but you must be sure to check back with your physician.
Since Pharmacists did not go to medical or nursing school, they may not be well trained to understand more of the details about some medical conditions. Always be sure to ask for the credentials of the person who is providing your care or advice.
5. Always follow up with your primary care
When notes are sent to your PCP from an urgent care center, they often go directly into your chart. You may assume your physician has read the notes but it is never a good idea to assume. Calling the office and reporting the incident will allow time to review your chart to see if further treatment is needed. And at least records that you are having problems that may need prevention.
Bottom line, do not let urgent care centers be the last encounter for that problem. Call your physician to schedule an appointment to discuss the visits and plan for future management.
My minutes are now up and it’s time for you to get back to living your best life. Until next time…
As always, much love for supporting my work. I will be adding many more posts to highlight parenting and healthcare tips, so be sure to consider subscribing to my podcast or to my blog to avoid missing a post…or a Dr. Momma Minute!
PM Pediatrics: Urgent care centers dedicated exclusively to kids! Check to see if there is one in your area.