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5 Signs You Should Visit a Walk In Clinic Instead of the ER

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Emergent, severe, or life-threatening injuries or illnesses should be treated at an emergency room (ER). In most other cases, a walk in clinic can be a great place to get expert, affordable, and convenient care. Whether you’re simply not feeling well and want prompt treatment or you have a minor injury that needs to be examined, walk in clinics can provide a variety of solutions for your needs.


Sometimes it can be confusing to determine where you should get care. Here are the top five signs you should visit a walk in clinic instead of the ER.

1. You are experiencing minor pain or symptoms

Walk in clinics are great options for minor, simple, and/or not life-threatening pain or symptoms. Typically staffed by physician assistants and nurse practitioners, these clinics have technology and equipment (such as imaging and lab services) to diagnose and treat a variety of conditions.


Visit a walk in clinic if you’re experiencing things like:


  • Minor injuries: This could include physical injuries like bruises, sprains, strains, minor broken bones, and similar injuries. It could also include minor pain, such as back pain. You can also go to a walk in clinic if you need treatment for a minor cut, laceration, infection, abrasion, or burn.
  • Cold, flu, and/or respiratory symptoms: Symptoms of colds, flu, sinus infections, and upper respiratory illnesses can include cough, earache, congestion, sore throat, headache, low-grade fever, and similar symptoms.
  • Gastrointestinal issues: Vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain can be treated at a walk in clinic.
  • Allergies or minor allergic reactions: This could include seasonal allergies, pet allergies, or other minor allergic reactions that may be accompanied by hives or swelling.
  • Minor eye issues: In most cases, you should see an eye doctor for eye injuries or concerns, but walk in clinics can treat things like minor irritation or pink eye.

2. You want to be seen and treated faster

Emergency rooms treat patients in order of severity. Even if someone arrives at the ER after you, they may be seen first if their condition needs faster treatment. This can lead to long wait times, especially if the ER is busy. Not only can it take a long time to be taken to an exam room, but it can also take a long time to see a doctor and receive treatment. In the end, you could spend hours in the ER.


Because walk in clinics don’t handle emergent conditions, they are able to treat patients on a first come, first served basis. This means patients are seen in the order they arrive, so you’ll spend less time in the waiting room. Chances are you’ll also see a doctor, be treated, and be on your way home much faster.

3. You want to pay less

The average cost of a walk in clinic visit is around $100 to $150, depending on the patient’s copay and the level of treatment needed. In some cases, patients pay even less because walk in clinics often have lower charges for services and treatment in general (though in some they could owe more).


In fact, recent data shows 70% of patients use health insurance, and their only cost is a copay. Uninsured patients can still go to a walk in clinic but may face additional charges for services like X-rays, lab tests, or other treatments.


On the other hand, the average emergency room visit is between $1,150 and $1,400 (depending on the treatment provided). If you have to use an ambulance service to get to the ER, the average cost is more than $1,200. These costs can add up quickly, and your wallet can take a big hit.

4. You want convenient care

Walk in clinics are convenient in several ways, including:



  • No appointment necessary: You do not need an appointment to visit a walk in clinic. Simply walk in to be seen by a provider.
  • Location: walk in clinics are located close to home, so you don’t have to travel great distances for care. They also are sometimes found near other medical facilities or pharmacies, making picking up prescriptions and getting follow-up care easy.
  • Hours: Not only are walk in clinics open during regular business hours, but they are also often open in the evenings, on weekends, and even on some holidays, ensuring you can get treatment when illness strikes.
  • Virtual care: Health care doesn’t get much more convenient than not having to leave your couch to speak with a provider. Some walk in clinics may offer access to virtual care, allowing you to connect with a provider who can provide a diagnosis, offer treatment, and even write you a prescription or order follow-up care. All you need is a desktop or mobile device and a stable internet connection.
  • Online check-in: Some walk in clinics offer patients the ability to check in online or let the clinic know they are on the way. While this isn’t an appointment and wait times can vary, it is an easy way to make your visit faster and smoother.


5. You want access to additional healthcare services

In addition to standard in-office care and virtual care, walk in clinics may offer other services you may need such as:


  • COVID-19 tests and vaccines.
  • Flu tests and vaccines.
  • Physical exams (such as for sports, school, or employment).
  • Occupational medicine (such as pre-employment screenings, fit testing, or treatment for work-related injuries).
  • Lab work.
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