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Most Urgent Care Centers Have These Medical Tools

We all experience minor scrapes once in a while. Over the years, thousands of urgent care centers have popped up around the US — to tend to these needs that don’t necessary require speedy visits to the emergency room or in-depth visits with a primary care doctor.

“Many health concerns can be treated very well at an urgent care facility,” says Dr. Paul Hyman, a primary care physician in Brunswick, Maine. “They’re useful for a person with a one-time straightforward health concern like a sprained ankle, a small laceration or a sore throat.”

While you should go to your primary care doctor if you’re experiencing a recurring health issue, if you simply need a quick fix, your local clinic can probably help you out. Bites, stings, burns and respiratory illnesses are all common conditions you can get treated at urgent care. Notably, an urgent care center is not an ER. If your condition is life-threatening — think heavy bleeding, large wounds, chest pain, a head injury or difficulty breathing — get to an ER.

As they’ve adapted to the needs of patients, urgent care clinics have stocked up on important resources to help with various medical conditions. We dive into the basics below.


What urgent care centers do have

Urgent care centers must follow operational criteria set by the Urgent Care Association and the American Academy of Urgent Care Medicine. While urgent care centers vary in terms of what specific tools they have on-site, all have medical equipment to diagnose and treat a range of injuries and illnesses. Each also has equipment to conduct lab tests or perform minor medical procedures, such as applying stitches.

The AAUCM says urgent care facilities should have these resources on-site:

Explainers

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  • X-ray, for diagnoses of issues with the chest, head, body and extremities
  • Hematology equipment, for blood samples, white and red blood cell counts and platelets
  • ECG/EKG, for cardiac diagnostics
  • Spirometer, for measuring lung capacity
  • Hyfrecator, for removing skin lesions
  • Cryogenics, for freezing off dermatological conditions, such as warts
  • Microscope, for looking at serum, stools, urine and sputum
  • Centrifuge, for producing lab samples for study
  • Audiometer, for hearing tests
  • IVs, for administering medications

While you can use this list as a guideline, be sure to check with the clinic you have in mind before you go, to ensure that the service or test you need is available. X-ray machines, for instance, are present at Midwest-based MedExpress urgent care centers, but not at New York and San Francisco’s One Medical urgent care centers.

What urgent care centers don’t have

Though urgent care centers have the equipment to handle many medical issues, they are limited compared to a hospital. You are unlikely to find an MRI or CT scanner at an urgent care center, for example. Vision tests also aren’t standard at urgent care centers. And they don’t have on-site pharmacies — for prescriptions, you’ll likely need to go elsewhere.

Still, for many common injuries (minor cuts, scrapes and rashes) and illnesses (cold, flu, allergy), an urgent care center has the tools on-site to get you patched up in no time.


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