Walk-in and urgent care clinics are being used more often instead of the emergency room or even a physician's office. However, there is a difference between the two facilities and what they might offer.
Walk-in clinics are designed to treat common conditions such as sinus infections and strep throat. They are usually staffed by nurse practitioners and physicians' assistants. They are able to write prescriptions to treat the symptoms. The walk-in clinic is designed to be convenient.
Urgent care clinics are essentially walk-in clinics but are for more acute illnesses and injuries that are beyond the abilities of a regular walk-in clinic. An urgent care clinic provides extended hours and is open for patients with non-life-threatening injuries or illnesses. This is a way to relieve the emergency rooms so patients receive better care.
Walk-in clinics will cost much less than an urgent care clinic. The co-pay will be around the same as a physician's office visit. The co-pay of an urgent care visit will be between a specialist's office visit and an emergency room visit.
It is important to identify what type of care that is needed. If it is critical, then neither a walk-in clinic nor an urgent care clinic should be a choice. An emergency room should always be the first option for critical issues. For the common cold, always choose the walk-in clinic, but for a more serious illness choose the urgent care clinic.
With any physician's office comes wait time. Just as the name implies, a walk-in clinic does not take appointments. Neither does an urgent care clinic. They both work off of a first-come, first-served basis. Be prepared to wait. Make the best decision on what route to take when seeking care when it comes to wait time, whether it is the ER, a walk-in clinic, urgent care or a physician.