There was a time when your only choices for medical care were your primary care physician and the emergency room. Today, the widespread availability of express care centers (sometimes called “urgent care” centers) is very helpful for people who find themselves with an injury or illness that may not warrant a trip to the ER but can’t wait until they can get in to see their primary care practitioner.
However, with the number of express care centers growing rapidly, you may have many in your area from which to choose. Consequently, it is important to do your research in advance so that if a need arises, you know which center is right for you or your loved one.
How to Select the Ideal Express Care Center
Below are six criteria you should keep in mind as you evaluate express care centers.
- While the closest express care isn’t necessarily the best one for your needs, the location should definitely be a consideration for choosing a provider when you have an urgent medical need.
- Quality of care. You want the express care center you choose to have doctors, nurses and other staff members who are highly qualified to deliver urgent care. For example, is the team led by board-certified physicians?
- Wait times. A properly staffed and well-run express care center should be able to keep wait times to a minimum. Many centers will post their current wait time on their website, so you can check back a few times to determine the average. In other cases, experiences shared by people you know who have used a particular center will be your best barometer.
- Express care centers have fees that are likely higher than seeing your primary care physician but significantly lower than visiting an emergency room. However, within those boundaries, there can be plenty of variation. It is a good idea to know up front what a center charges for treatment of common injuries and illnesses, and to what degree your insurance plan will cover those charges.
- Interpreter services. If you or a loved one speaks a language other than English and would benefit from an interpreter, it’s important to know if a particular express care center can provide that service.
- Integration with other providers. The ease with which a care center can share information with your other healthcare providers should be a factor in your decision. The center’s website or a staff member can tell you about the facility’s affiliations.
Always Have a Backup
As you look for your “go to” express care center, it is a good idea to have a backup or two in mind. That way, if you find your first choice isn’t an option for some reason (an unusually long wait time, for example), you can quickly move on to another provider.
Of course, Baptist Health offers express and urgent care clinics throughout our service area. You can see locations and wait times online.