Why Do I Wait So Long for Urgent Care?

medical waiting room

Urgent care centers can be useful if you need care for a minor medical issue or if you require other medical services like lab work and vaccinations. These centers can provide an alternate option for people who may not have a primary care doctor or who need care outside of a doctor’s business hours.

Wait times in the urgent care center can vary greatly depending on the number of people waiting and the severity of your sickness or illness. They can be as little as a few minutes or as long as a few hours.

Why Are Urgent Care Wait Times So Long?
The nature of urgent care can make wait times quite unpredictable. In general, when you visit an urgent care facility, your wait time will be determined by how busy the facility is, as well as how many other patients come in after you arrive. It is also important to reiterate that these facilities are not first come, first served. Urgent care facilities serve patients based on need rather than time. If someone comes in after you with a more serious problem, it is likely that they will be seen before you.

Urgent care wait times can be quite lengthy because they are not exclusively determined by the severity of a patient’s condition. If you visit an urgent care clinic and other patients need assistance before you, you may have to wait for quite a while.

Before you visit an urgent care clinic, there are a few things you should keep in mind to expedite your visit.

1. Check in Online
Many urgent care clinics are walk-in centers, meaning you don’t need an appointment to see a healthcare professional. As such, your wait time may vary considerably depending on the number of people ahead of you. It could take 20 minutes to see a healthcare professional, or it could take multiple hours.

Even if a center doesn’t allow appointments, you might have the option of online check-in. Go to the center’s website to see if online check-in is available. If so, you can go ahead and provide initial information so they can prepare for your arrival.

This process reserves your spot in line, which helps you see a healthcare professional sooner. Think of it like putting your name down on a waitlist at a restaurant.

2. Find an Urgent Care Center That Meets Your Needs
If you have health insurance, it’s important to choose a center that accepts your insurance plan to reduce your out-of-pocket costs.

Some urgent care centers specialize in pediatric care, making these clinics a good fit if your child needs care. Other clinics specialize in treating issues related to women’s health or orthopedics.

It can be helpful to know where the closest urgent care center to your home is located. Familiarize yourself with the type of services provided by this clinic, as well as the clinic’s operating hours.

3. Know What to Bring
Urgent care centers do not maintain an extensive record of a patient’s medical history like a regular doctor’s office does. To expedite treatment and receive the best care possible, bring all necessary medical documentation with you to the clinic.

This can include your most recent health insurance information and the names of any prescription medications you’re taking. A list of your significant medical diagnoses and vaccination history can be helpful.

Also, if you have a primary care physician, be sure to have the doctor’s name and office information available. If you’re bringing a minor who is not your child, be sure you have their parental authorization form.

4. Know the Best Time To Visit
You can visit an urgent care center at any time during the clinic’s normal operating hours. Be aware that certain times may be busier than others. This includes nights, weekends, and holidays when many doctors’ offices are closed.

The more people waiting ahead of you, the longer it may take to be seen. If you need urgent care but can wait a bit longer, call your nearest urgent care center and ask about the estimated wait time before leaving home. You’ll be seen by a healthcare professional quicker if you arrive when the clinic isn’t busy.

How Much Does an Urgent Care Visit Cost?
Urgent care can be quite expensive, both for patients with and without health insurance. Even insured patients are looking at a minimum out-of-pocket cost of $150, just for walking into the urgent care facility. This cost may further rise when lab work and tests are included.
ReviveHealth is working to solve the affordability and accessibility challenges that permeate through every area of the healthcare industry, including urgent care. We believe urgent care should function as it is designed to work—without the endless wait times and ridiculous costs.

Key Takeaways
Urgent care centers are medical facilities where you can receive treatment for non-life-threatening conditions, such as illness or minor injuries. Although designed to provide immediate treatment, staffing shortages and other complications can make wait times quite lengthy in certain cases.

Here at ReviveHealth we have the solution to these long wait times with 24/7/365 access to urgent care doctors in all our plans. Start your ReviveHealth membership today and meet with an urgent care doctor whenever and wherever you need to.

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