Choosing The Right Health Care Clinic

Unfamiliar Urgent Care Situations: 6 Mistakes To Avoid When You Can't Get To Your Regular Doctor

Health care is a constant concern for many people, but knowing where to go for what treatment, especially after the doctor's office is closed, can be confusing. Figuring out what your insurance will and will not cover is also complicated, but no matter what, you want to make sure you get the care you need in a timely manner. Avoid the common mistakes people make when facing these important decisions so that you're never without the proper medical attention you need.

1. Not Knowing The Difference Between The ER And Urgent Care

The terms "urgent care," "after-hours care," and "emergency care" may all sound very similar, but it's important to know how the different clinics can help you. In general, when you have an emergency or are not sure if you have an emergency, it's always best to dial 911. However, many common ailments can be treated at an after-hours care center because these places are generally an extension of a doctor's services, only offered at times when the doctor's office is usually closed:

  • Colds and the flu, including bronchitis and upper-respiratory infections.
  • Cumbersome back pain.
  • Minor sprains, strains and pulled muscles.
  • Minor bone breaks, such as a finger, provided the bone is not protruding (which would warrant a trip to the emergency room).
  • Persistent vomiting and/or diarrhea.
  • Urinary tract infections.
  • Other non life-threatening complaints involving pain, discomfort, and other symptoms.

2. Misunderstanding Your Insurance Coverage

Depending on your policy, your co-pay for a special visit to urgent care may be slightly higher than what it would be to see your doctor, but it's still very likely to be lower than if you go to the ER. No matter what, though, insurance should never dissuade you from seeking the treatment you need. Some clinics will offer you a sliding-scale fee, based on your income, while others may provide you with even more options to pay if you don't have a lot of money and/or your insurance isn't going to cover something.

3. Not Following Up With Your Doctor

Although the care you receive at a clinic should be complete, don't forget to give your doctor a call to let them know what you've been through. They may want to see you for follow-up tests or simply be made aware of your medical situation and any prescriptions you've been given. Following through with a visit to your doctor may also get your questions about insurance answered.

4. Failing To Bring A List Of Your Current Medications

Any time you need to be attended to at a clinic or urgent care center, you need to bring a complete list of the medications you're taking. Often, people don't remember everything they've been prescribed or can't recall which medicines they're actually taking regularly. It's a good idea to keep a list of your meds in your purse or wallet for times like these.

5. Not Knowing Exactly What You're Allergic To

Especially if you're allergic to any medications which might be administered by a clinic, they're going to need to know this. Along with a list of your current medications, keep a running list of anything you've had a reaction to, including foods, latex, perfumes, and anything else you might be exposed to. The last thing you want during a medical situation is another complication, such as can be experienced if you have any type of allergic reaction.

6. Deciding To Wait Until Your Regular Physician Is Available

Despite the potential confusion, paperwork, and insurance woes, you should not choose to wait until your doctor's office is open when you know something is wrong with you. Although it may be easier to deal with the familiar office and staff, whatever is ailing you needs to be evaluated and treated if necessary. Failure to be seen now could result in a worsening of your condition, and that's the last thing you want.

Despite being a predominant industry in society with trillions of dollars running through it, health care is still a complicated maze for most people to figure out. Don't be afraid to ask questions, be it of your primary care physician, insurance provider, or whoever happens to be treating you at off-hours. Request handbooks and other documentation that will help guide you through to the care you need, whenever you may need it.