We’ve all had those moments when we realize we are very ill and need to see a doctor immediately. In the medical world, this is sometimes referred to as an “acute care visit”, which means that you need care for something that has come up suddenly, rather than a chronic issue, like diabetes. With cold and flu season upon us, it’s important to be prepared for those moments when you realize that you need a doctor—STAT! And since options for medical care have expanded to provide flexibility for our busy lives, you may not be familiar with all the available options.
Did you know you can access care online or on the phone? Many insurance companies offer a way for people to get in immediate contact with a doctor. Check your insurance card for a 24-hour nurse/help line, a website, or a similar option. The idea is that you can get in touch with a medical professional right away, rather than having to leave work or drive to an office. This service can be a great option when you aren’t sure about what’s going on and what to do next.
Another option is to access a clinic that is located in a local pharmacy (sometimes called retail clinics). You may be familiar with CVS Minute Clinics, Healthcare Clinics at Walgreens, and other similar places. These stores offer walk-in appointments where you can talk with a medical professional either in-person or online. They can diagnose acute issues and, if necessary, prescribe medication to treat it. They can also provide physicals, vaccinations, and other services.
Yet, another option is an Urgent Care Clinic, which look and feel more like traditional doctors’ offices. These offices provide walk-in appointments with medical professionals who can assess and treat more types of medical concerns than retail clinics. They also work closely with hospitals, so if a situation becomes an emergency, they can get people to an emergency room quickly.
Finally, you should check if your primary care physician offers acute care hours. Some doctors set aside time where they will only see people who have had something come up suddenly. Acute care hours allow you to go to the same office as you would for regular check-ups, and you might even be able to see your primary care doctor.
For any of these options, it is important to check out your health insurance policy before making any appointments to make sure that your plan covers the service. You should also check what you will need to pay for co-pay. And as always, for severe situations you should go directly to the emergency room!