Thanks to a surge in popularity in recent years, most communities are now home to at least one urgent care center, with many boasting multiple centers within only a few miles of each other. For potential patients, this is incredibly beneficial.
“Patients have come to rely on urgent care centers as places to receive quality, convenient care in their communities when their health needs are immediate, but not life-threatening,” says Christine Stallkamp, MD, director of urgent care for Main Line Health and family practice physician at the Main Line Health Exton Square.
While most patients understand what constitutes a visit to an urgent care center, there are still some common misconceptions about what happens once you arrive. Below, Dr. Stallkamp dispels some common rumors.
They’re not a replacement for your primary care doctor
You got the flu last year, so you visited a local urgent care center for treatment. This year, you had to visit with a minor injury. Both visits went fine, so why make an appointment with a primary care doctor?
Being seen by a clinician—whether it’s a doctor or a nurse practitioner—at an urgent care center is not a substitute for an annual wellness visit.
You should still be visiting your doctor at least once a year, and, in most cases, the staff at an urgent care center will encourage you to follow up with your regular physician after a visit,” says Dr. Stallkamp.
They can’t refill your prescriptions
Although urgent care centers can help address many health needs, filling prescriptions is not one of them. Prescriptions should only be refilled by your physician, so the management of medical conditions can be monitored and treated appropriately.
They’re almost always open
There are few urgent care centers that are open around the clock, but if you’re working late or sick on a holiday, most urgent care centers, like the Main Line Health locations in Exton and Broomall, are open when traditional doctor’s offices are closed. However, if you find yourself facing a medical emergency in the middle of the night and can’t find an urgent care center, play it safe and head to the nearest emergency department.
You can see an experienced clinician
Many patients may think they need to visit the emergency department to be cared for by an experienced physician, but that’s not the case, says Dr. Stallkamp.
“While some urgent care centers may be affiliated with a hospital or health system, and are staffed by its team of clinicians, including experienced doctors, nurse practitioners, and nurses, not all are,” she explains. “Look for centers that have been certified by the Urgent Care Association of America, as these centers require a licensed physician to serve as Medical Director in order to receive certification.”
The Main Line Health Exton Square is home to a certified urgent care center.
Most locations include X-ray services
Many urgent care centers have X-ray services available in-house, so there’s no need to make multiple trips for injuries like sprains or fractures.
They’ll send you to the emergency department if they need to
Chest pain? A severe burn or cut? Excessive bleeding? Issues like these are best handled by the staff at an emergency department, as they’ll have access to hospital equipment and technology immediately, if necessary. In situations like these, the staff at an urgent care center will work quickly to make sure you’re transferred to the nearest emergency department.
Main Line Health provides a variety of options for after-hours and emergency care, including a certified urgent care center at the Main Line Health Exton Square and Main Line Health NOW in Broomall, both of which have hours on nights, weekends, and holidays. Visit our website to learn more about Main Line Health's urgent and after-hours care.