To a busy family, urgent care can seem like the solution to many healthcare related scheduling difficulties. It may be tempting to use the no-appointment, after-hours flexibility as an alternative to your primary care provider, doing so is not recommended.
Urgent care providers are set up to address immediate needs and immediate needs only. Using urgent care for primary care may leave several “blind spots” in your child’s health care.
- No Long-Term Relationship with Pediatric Providers: Your child’s primary pediatrician is familiar with your child’s medical history, needs and personality. While medical records can fill-in the physicians at an urgent care facility, they’re no substitute for a relationship. Further compounding the problem, because of the nature of staffing an urgent care facility, there’s no guarantee you’ll always receive the same physician with each visit.
- Can’t Monitor Chronic Conditions: Urgent care works best when patients have an easily treatable condition, such as a fever or an injured limb. It’s not so great for providing care that requires perspective, such as monitoring a chronic illness like asthma. Monitoring ongoing conditions and creating a treatment plan requires an ongoing relationship with a pediatrician.
- Need Regular, Preventative Care: Quality healthcare isn’t just reactionary treatment against illness. It also includes routine well care visits as well as advice about nutrition, development and mental health. Patients who rely on urgent care physicians often miss out on these important elements of ongoing care.
- No Long-Term Medication: Because urgent-care facilities are developed to help patients get over an immediate illness, patients can’t receive prescriptions for ongoing care from an urgent-care provider. Refillable medications are part of an ongoing health plan that must be developed by a primary care provider.
- Price: Urgent care facilities may be more convenient, but they’re also more expensive. Visits to urgent care facilities almost universally require higher co-payments, as after-hours convenience comes at a higher price.
The healthcare system works best when patients use the facility type – urgent care, primary care and emergency rooms – that best suits their needs. Using urgent care for primary care isn’t just a more expensive plan. It shortcuts your child’s care.