The touch football game with your fraternity alums seemed like fun. Until, that is, you got buried under a middle-aged heap. By 8 p.m. on Saturday, your throbbing ankle resembled a softball.
In the past, your only option was an emergency room. No longer. Urgent care facilities make it easy for patients to get quick treatment when their primary care physician is unavailable.
The facilities are on the rise. Silverside Medical Aid Unit in Brandywine Hundred, which opened in 1978, experienced such an increase in patients that in 2010 it opened the Naamans Medical Aid Unit a few miles away. Doctors Express opened in the Fairfax Shopping Center that year.
Partly, cost is driving the trend. ERs must contain the equipment and staff needed to cope with serious emergencies. “The cost of maintaining that is passed on to the insurance companies and the patient,” says Sally Pollard, practice administrator for Silverside Medical Aid Network. “That adds up to a high price to evaluate a strep throat or minor laceration.” The less-expensive urgent care centers are a win-win for patients and insurers, she says. Plus, patients have a shorter wait time and no appointment is necessary.
Look for a center with a physician always on site, Pollard says. Urgent care centers are no substitute for a family doctor. “We are simply here to supplement what they do,” she says. —Pam George