If you're a parent, you know all too well the feelings of concern and frustration you experience when your child gets sick or becomes injured "after doctors' hours." For many reasons, the idea of "home visits" by a family doctor or Pediatrician is as much a relic of the past as black and white television sets.
So what do you DO when you need after hours care for children? Do you take them to the Emergency Room, or do you risk waiting until your Pediatrician opens in the morning?
Fortunately, a new concept in health care means that you no longer have to make such painful decisions. Pediatric Urgent Care centers supplement existing Pediatric Primary Care practices by providing quality urgent care for children in the evenings or weekends.
Why Emergency Rooms may not be the best place to take kids for urgent care
First, consider the environment where treatment takes place. Unlike the friendly, comforting ambiance of your familiar Pediatrician's offices, Emergency Rooms tend to be noisy, chaotic environments often full of patients who are either bleeding or in critical need of help. For a child, the chaos of a busy Emergency Room may be more traumatic than their own illness or injury.
Second, consider the staff. Of course Emergency Rooms are always staffed by qualified doctors and nurses, but very few of them can afford to have a dedicated Pediatrician on staff for mild to moderate illnesses." Finally, consider the potential cost. Many health insurance policies do not fully cover visits to an Emergency Room, or require higher co-pays.
Why Pediatric Urgent Care is an idea whose time has come
The first thing to understand is that there is a fundamental difference between the goals and focus of Emergency Care facilities vs. Urgent Care facilities:
- Emergency Care focuses on the assessment, management, and treatment of seriously ill or injured patients of all ages, especially those whose condition is potentially life-threatening.
- Pediatric Urgent Care focuses on providing acute assessment, management, and treatment of mild-moderately sick or injured kids, with an emphasis on rapid service and providing a harmonious, non-threatening environment at low cost.
Health care situations that are considered "urgent" are those illnesses or injuries that should receive prompt medical treatment, but that are not considered life-threatening. Examples of the types of medical conditions that can be effectively treated at a kids' Urgent Care clinic include:
- Mild breathing difficulties
- Abdominal pain
- Vomiting, diarrhea, and associated dehydration
- Croup or sore throats
- Bronchitis or pneumonia
- Infections of the ear, eye, skin, or urinary tract
- Rashes, abscesses, or boils
- Sore throats
- Headaches and colds
In addition, Pediatric Urgent Care centers can effectively provide treatment for the following types of minor accidents:
- Insect or animal bites
- Bleeding, cuts, and lacerations
- Sprains & simple fractures
- Sports-related injuries
- Foreign body removal
- Other non life threatening pediatric diseases
Statistically, these conditions are the ones that most often require after-hours treatment by doctors, so clearly the concept of 24/7 Pediatric Urgent Care is a timely idea.
Benefits of Pediatric Urgent Care over treatment in an Emergency Room
Please don't get us wrong – there are times when an Emergency Room IS the best place to take your child. That is why the first service provided by most Pediatric Urgent Care centers is a staff of qualified urgent care triage nurses who can respond to your questions either on a walk-in basis or over the phone and tell you whether the situation is serious enough to require a visit to the Emergency Room.
In addition, it can be reassuring to know that the doctors at some Pediatric specific Urgent Care centers such as the Urgent Care for Pediatrics, Birmingham are all licensed Pediatricians. They know kids, they know kids' diseases and conditions, and they are used to working with kids in a calm, confidence-inspiring manner. They are not "spread thin" with other duties, so their whole focus is providing urgent care for children. Plus, these qualified pediatricians are there for you during the critical times when you need them. Kids don't get sick "on schedule;" that's why they are open late and after hours. They're also open on weekends, 365 days a year.
Two other areas in which the Urgent Care clinic concept excels are convenience and cost. In terms of convenience, Pediatric Urgent Care clinics almost always offer shorter wait times than Emergency Rooms, and they are often directly associated with your Pediatric Primary Care provider, so they can provide "continuity of treatment and follow up." And in terms of cost, you are less likely to incur massive out-of-pocket expenses and the high co-pays and "surprise charges" that often result from a late-night visit to an Emergency Room.
So the next time your kids get sick in the middle of the night or on a weekend and you're wondering where to go for the medical care they need, know that you finally have a choice. Pediatric Urgent Care centers offer you that choice.
American Academy of Pediatrics. "Pediatric Care Recommendations for Freestanding Urgent Care Facilities". Pediatrics 2014; 133:950-953. http://www.pediatrics.org/cgi/doi/10.1542/peds.2014-0569.
Conners GP, Kressly SJ, Perrin JM, et al (American Academy of Pediatrics). "Nonemergency Acute Care: When It's Not the Medical Home". Pediatrics 2017; 139(5):e20170629.
Palo Alto Medical Foundation. "Urgent Care." http://www.pamf.org/Pediatrics/urgentcare/palo-alto.php. Accessed on October 15, 2017.
Source: Urgent Care for Children