10 Things Urgent Care Doctors Hope You Never Find Out

Urgent care centers are becoming the norm for those with illnesses, cuts, and broken bones. But what do doctors know that we don’t? Here are the 10 things physicians don’t want you to know — plus the five things they wish everyone knew.

Primary care doctors typically don’t like urgent care centers

a doctor holding a tablet

Why don’t the two get along? | iStock/Getty Images 

According to Reader’s Digest, primary care doctors typically bump heads with urgent care centers because of the urgent care’s lack of depth in their treatment. For example, if someone comes in with a serious cough, they might not dig deep enough to know if the person has a smoking problem. But a primary care physician would get to the root of the problem and monitor your health long-term.

Next: The urgent care staff might be a bit deceiving.  

They sometimes suggest more than what you actually need

doctor consulting with patient

You may want to get a second opinion. | Psphotograph/Getty Images

One secret urgent care centers won’t tell you? They sometimes suggest more than you actually need. Reader’s Digest reports that urgent care centers do this because they want to avoid any possible lawsuit. If they didn’t suggest something that you ended up needing (such as further x-rays for a broken bone), they could get hit with a lawsuit. So they’d prefer to advise it rather than not.

Next: They might even give you something you don’t need at all. 

And they might even give you a treatment you don’t need

Make sure you regularly talk to your doctor about your health.

Make sure you’re mindful of what your body really needs. | Ridofranz/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

If you search your nearby urgent care center on the internet, you’ll find that most of them have plenty of reviews. That’s because people are quick to rate a bad experience. So if someone asks for something at an urgent care center that the nurse doesn’t necessarily think they need, they might give it to them anyway. Reader’s Digest says that some urgent care centers might give you an antibiotic for your cold even when they know it isn’t necessary. But sometimes, if you want it, you get it.

Next: You won’t like the cost of urgent care. 

They can be extremely expensive

Hundred dollar bills money

The cost may be higher than you’d expect. | SARINYAPINNGAM/iStock/Getty Images

Some co-pays for urgent care centers are much higher than what you’d pay to go to your primary care doctor. Plus, if you go to an urgent care center when you should actually go to the emergency room, the cost will skyrocket; you’ll then have to pay the urgent care’s copay, plus ambulance transportation and the cost of an emergency room visit.

Next: Their medication choices are not in your favor. 

They typically give you the most expensive medication

Medications on shelves of medicine cabinet

They probably won’t recommend generic brands. | smartstock/iStock/Getty Images 

Sometimes, you can get a free sample of medication from your urgent care nurse practitioner or physician. But while this is beneficial in the short term (it’s free), it could hurt you in the long run. When you go to refill the prescription, you might find out that it’s one of the most expensive ones available. If they offer you a medication at no cost, ask for a prescription for the generic brand. There is no difference besides cost.

Next: Your bill might not be exactly what it says. 

Your bill isn’t set in stone

Medical bill and health insurance

There may be a way around that pricey bill. | everydayplus/iStock/Getty Images

Urgent care centers might not want you to know this, but you can actually negotiate your bill. If you think you’re paying too much, you can let them know. And they might reduce your bill, but they’ll need a reason why. Reader’s Digest reported that in some situations, you can get a card that lets you get a discount each time you visit.

Next: Urgent care centers vary in this. 

Not all urgent care centers have the same capabilities

Female patient waking up in the morning

Be mindful of what urgent care center you visit. | Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images

Not all urgent care centers are created equal. Some urgent care centers are only equipped to handle certain things, like small cuts or a flu diagnosis. But some can actually give IVs and take x-rays. However, not all urgent care centers have these capabilities, so familiarize yourself with the one in your area in case you ever need to go.

Next: Heads up: You might not see an actual doctor. 

You probably won’t see a real doctor when you’re there

Nurse smiling at Patient

The quality of the doctor may vary. | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Some urgent care centers only have doctors on hand for complex cases. In most cases, you’ll be seen by a nurse or a nurse practitioner. These medical professionals are extremely knowledgeable, and you likely won’t notice the difference between seeing a nurse and seeing a doctor. But it’s important to know that you might not see an actual physician while you’re there; it usually varies by location.

Next: Sanitation is different between urgent care centers and doctors’ offices. 

Rooms aren’t sanitized after every patient

Nurse With Digital Tablet Talks To Senior Patient

There may be germs everywhere. | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

Nurses and doctors will always wash their hands between patients. But they don’t always have enough time to sanitize the entire room before the next patient comes in. That’s where it becomes your responsibility to make sure you’re using hand sanitizer or properly washing your hands after a visit. Urgent care centers do their best, but you are responsible for your own health as well.

Next: Here’s the best time to go to an urgent care center. 

The best time to go is midday

doctor waiting room

If you’re in a rush, skip the evenings and early mornings. | Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images

If you think getting to the urgent care center first thing in the morning will save you time, think again. Actually, early morning and evening are the busiest times for urgent care centers. People want to get there before school, right after work, etc., so those times are usually filled with patients. The time of year and day of the week can also play a role in how busy your urgent care center is.

Next: Here are five things doctors definitely want you to know.

If you think you’re having a heart attack, never go to an urgent care center

Woman has Chest Pain at Park

If something’s wrong with your heart, go to the emergency room. | iStock.com/champja

One case where you should never go to an urgent care center: When you’re having chest pain. With chest pain, it’s imperative that you head to the emergency room. Waiting too long could mean serious repercussions. And if you go to an urgent care, they’ll just call you an ambulance. This means you’ve just wasted time and money. Stroke symptoms are also an instance where you should always choose the ER over urgent care.

Next: The percentage of people taken to the ER might surprise you. 

Less than 4% of patients get sent to the ER from urgent care

Ambulance van on highway with flashing lights

Urgent care can help, but not always. | OgnjenO/iStock/Getty Images

Most of the time, urgent care centers can properly treat you. Prevention.com reports that somewhere between 2% and 4% of patients get sent to the ER following an urgent care visit. If you don’t think it’s serious enough to go to the ER, then it probably isn’t. But always listen to your body: If something really doesn’t feel right, head to the hospital.

Next: The wait times aren’t what you think. 

You probably won’t wait as long as you think

The wait isn’t always substantial. | Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images

Some people tend to avoid urgent care centers because they think they’ll wait for an hour or more. But actually, wait times are typically far less. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, 92% of urgent care centers typically maintain wait times of 30 minutes or less. So if you’re considering skipping out on a visit just because of the wait time, don’t.

Next: Certain illnesses definitely require an urgent care or doctor visit. 

If you think you have the flu, you should go to an urgent care center

Sick man with thermometer in mouth

A flu is never fun. | iStock.com/IPGGutenbergUKLtd 

Flu season is no laughing matter. Young children and the elderly are especially at risk of medical problems associated with the flu. If you think you might have the flu, either go to your primary care physician or an urgent care center if your primary doctor isn’t available. It’s important to get a proper diagnosis, so you can be sure to stay away from anyone who might be at a high risk.

Next: Urgent care centers are becoming more popular than ever. 

Urgent cares might be so popular because there is a need for convenience

emergency room sign

Emergency rooms are not as prevalent. | Bryan Steffy/Getty Images

Urgent care centers have become more popular than ever. Years ago, you’d need to see your primary care physician for something as common as a flu shot. But today, you can drive a few minutes to your nearest urgent care or minute clinic and be treated in no time. That’s because Americans crave convenience. Gone are the days of driving a half hour to the nearest doctor. It’s no surprise urgent care centers are popping up at a high of rate of up to 600 new centers per year.

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