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How Urgent Care Differs from After-Hours Physicians

Physician Listens To Smiling Senior Patient's Heartbeat With A Stethoscope

When a patient is sick or injured beyond their physician’s regular office hours, what should they do? Checking in with the on-call doctor at their physician’s practice is a logical first step. However, there are times when going directly to urgent care for medical services is necessary. Here, A+ Urgent Care discusses when patients should seek urgent care or after-hours care and some of the differences between the two.

After-Hours Physicians: Who They Are and What They Do

An after-hours physician, or the on-call doctor, is the healthcare professional responsible for fielding patient calls outside regular office hours, such as on nights and weekends. This could mean letting a mother know what to do over the phone when her child spikes a fever just before bedtime or advising an elderly patient with a question about his or her medications early in the morning. When it’s not possible – or safe – to solve an issue over the phone, as when a patient is injured, they’ll also come to the office for a face-to-face examination.

Thanks to the availability of telehealth, patients also have the option to meet with a physician virtually. But while 24/7 virtual care is convenient – especially when patients partner with innovative platforms that allow remote patient monitoring – sometimes there’s just no substitution for an in-person visit with a trained, compassionate healthcare professional.

In either case, some patients with complex conditions or more serious injuries are advised to visit their local urgent care for treatment anyway.

Urgent Care: Treatments and Services

What is urgent care? Different from a hospital’s emergency room, urgent care treats a wide range of conditions. It is often considered the middle-ground area between a regular physician’s office and the hospital. While truly life-threatening injuries or conditions require a visit to the ER, almost anything else can be treated by an urgent care physician. Common ailments include:

  • Sprains and muscle strains
  • Influenza and the stomach bug
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Fractured bones
  • Urinary tract infections (UTI)
  • Lacerations that require stitches
  • Mild-to-moderate asthma
  • Eye redness and irritation
  • Skin rashes and infections
  • Head lice
  • Ear infections

Please note: If these or any other conditions appear life-threatening, patients should dial 911 immediately.

Advantages of Urgent Care

One of the best parts about urgent care is that the facility runs for longer hours than most private practices, even offering weekend hours. Some of the benefits of visiting urgent care over other options include:

  • No appointments necessary: To see a doctor, patients only need to walk in and register with the front desk. This advantage also holds true for regular physicals and other types of routine care.
  • Minimal wait times: Urgent care centers are staffed to accommodate many patients. This means that wait times are often very minimal.
  • In-person examinations: Patients can expect a private, in-person examination on every visit. This is especially necessary for ailments that would otherwise be difficult to examine through video conference or over the phone.
  • Onsite diagnostics: A local urgent care facility is equipped to perform X-rays and other advanced diagnostics that aren’t always accessible at a private practice. Should they be required, telehealth or on-call physicians may need to refer the patient to a facility anyway.
  • Laboratory access: While many private practices don’t have an onsite laboratory, urgent care typically does. This means patients can be examined and get the tests they need all in one place.

In terms of insurance, urgent care facilities often accommodate a more diverse patient load. Many facilities are in-network with a wide variety of carriers, including workers’ comp. While some insurance companies may be listed on their website, patients can always call ahead for details about their specific policy.

Urgent Aftercare Support

A common misconception is that patients visit urgent care as a one-off solution when their provider is unavailable. While their routine healthcare provider is recommended as the first call because they’re familiar with the patient, urgent care doctors also facilitate aftercare processes. Whether it’s coordinating referrals, communicating with a primary physician, or scheduling follow-up visits, the urgent care team is committed to guiding each patient every step of the way.

Located in Clifton, New Jersey, A+ Urgent Care proudly serves patients with a wide range of health needs. For more information about whether urgent care or after-hours care is a better solution in a patient’s unique case, contact us today.

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