Is Urgent Care a Substitute for Primary Care?
Though urgent care centers treat most conditions, including preventative care and diagnostics, it is generally not a good idea to substitute them for a primary care doctor. These centers have been created for supplemental, after-hours care and cases that are more urgent than day-to-day care.
Urgent Care May Have the Same Physicians
In some cases, your urgent care facility may have the same physicians as your primary care clinic. This happens if the two are in the same building or affiliated with the same hospital and your primary care physician is just making rounds at the urgent care. This can make it more comfortable to visit the urgent care facility, but still not a replacement for routine, scheduled appointments with your primary care physician (PCP).
Urgent Care Offers Preventative and Standard Care
At an urgent care center, you can get preventative care. This involves things such as vaccinations, gynecological testing, and more. In addition, you can get much, if not all, of the standard care that you would at a primary care clinic. Physicals, lab work, medication, x-rays, and more are all common when you head to an urgent care center. Plus, you don't have to make an appointment at an urgent care; you can simply walk in when you aren't feeling well.
Higher Cost Than Primary Care
One of the downsides to using urgent care as a primary care clinic is that urgent care has a higher cost than a primary care office visit. Though it is not as expensive as going to the emergency room, it is going to have a higher copay if you are using insurance, and higher overall cost if you are paying out of pocket.
There are other downsides to using urgent care instead of a primary physician. These include:
- No long-term medication
- No steady doctor
- More difficult chronic illness/pain management
- Lack of access to complete medical records
Though these things can be problematic, they should not keep you from seeking help at an urgent care facility if need be.
So, Should Urgent Care be a Substitute for Primary Care?
In general, urgent care should be used as supplemental to primary care and never as a replacement to them. Though urgent care can be used instead of a primary care doctor in some cases, it is not recommended.