As you may know, there has been a lot of development in the healthcare industry in terms of provider access and general access to health-related services.
As more options open for you to find healthcare, you may want to first understand the different types of providers for basic, minor, and urgent healthcare needs.
The surge of “retail clinics” in big box stores provide an opportunity for patients to address minor health needs while performing other errands like shopping. What patients need to understand is that retail clinics may not work as a suitable alternative to primary care or retail clinics.
We’ve broken down the main differences between urgent care and retail clinics previously, but it is also important to have in-depth knowledge about the services and capabilities of each facility:
Retail clinics provide minor walk-in service for patients are located inside of grocery stores, pharmacies, and wholesale box stores.
Retail clinics are mostly staffed by nurse practitioners (NPs) or physician assistants (PAs), as a way to provide fast and affordable care.
But different retail clinic operators provide different services. For the most part, retail clinics provide care for common illnesses and injuries, including a sore throat, cold and flu symptoms, cuts, burns, and headaches. A few retail clinics may also perform immunizations and some screenings. However, for the most part retail clinics are very limited in their care capabilities.
The operating hours for retail clinics vary, but are generally open from 8 a.m to 8 p.m during the week and usually operate the same hours as their retailer location.
Primary care offices are staffed by family physicians and provide a variety of services intended for longer-term care, wellness, and health stability.
Primary care physicians (PCPs) are valuable to most patients because of the strong relationships they form with patients and families. These relationships allow a primary care provider to improvement their management of a patient’s health, provide patient education and counseling, and promote wellness goals.
PCPs are also are responsible for offering preventative services that can keep illness at bay. A primary care office performs vaccinations, physicals, check-ups, screenings and blood work, and help with the management of diseases such as diabetes and asthma.
In addition, PCPs also provide specialty referrals if they identify any outstanding healthcare risks or concerns. Usually PCPs are open during regular business hours.
Make sure to meet a new potential PCP and evaluate if they are a good fit for you or your family.
Urgent care centers are a bit more advanced in clinical capabilities when compared to retail clinics, based on their equipment and medical staff. Patients at urgent care centers have access to board-certified physicians, x-ray imaging services, and lab access. For the most part, patients receive comprehensive care at an urgent care center compared to retail clinics.
Urgent care centers also provide a great alternative to the emergency room (ER). The average wait time at an urgent care center is 15 minutes or less, compared to between 30 minutes to an hour or more at an ER.
Ultimately, you’ll likely need at least two of these providers in order to have ideal healthcare access. For most patients, a PCP as well as a trusted urgent care center can help deliver the best possible healthcare outcomes.