A wide variety of ailments, diseases, and injuries can afflict Americans today, anything from difficulty breathing to lacerations to chest pain to allergies, and family medicine today is geared toward providing the right kind of care, at the right price, at several different types of medical centers in urban and rural areas. A hopsital’s ER, an urgent care clinic, a childrens urgent care clinic, and a retail clinic are all different places for different needs, and family medicine depends on going to the right place and getting treatment.
The market for urgent care centers is fragmented; most operators own fewer than three centers, and they don’t typically have a large market presence. But there are a lot of them now, with 7,357 urgent care centers in the United States, up from 6,707 in 2015. Pediatricians, meanwhile, specialize in medicine for those from newborn status through adolescence, and a personal physician is deeply aware of each client’s personal medical history and needs. Family medicine can come from any of these places and more, as needed.
A hospital’s ER is the go-to place for conditions that are, or may soon become, life-threatening. Chest pain or difficulty breathing, for example, can indicate an imminent heart attack or lung trouble, and larger broken bones such as the femur or skull must be dealt with at an ER, where doctors, surgeons, and many nurses have specialized equipment and training to administer emergency care. But not everyone who goes to the ER actually needs it after all; anywhere from 44% to 65% of ER episodes could have been taken care of at urgent care centers, according to a recent study, although personal judgement of the patient and the patient’s friends and family can ensure whether or not going to the ER is appropriate, and keep room clear for those who need it at the ER.
One of the biggest branches of family medicine is an urgent care clinic, and this category can be split into general urgent care centers and retail clinics. Searching “24 hour urgent care near me” can often yield multiple results, and these places are often conveniently placed, complete with parking, given how often Americans want to visit them. Of all the people who visit such a clinic, only about 3% of them are deferred to an ER; the rest can be treated right there. Minor afflictions such as broken fingers and toes, allergic reactions, headaches, back pain, the cold and flu, and rashes can be treated by a clinic’s staff of nurses and physician’s attendants, although it is rare for an actual physician to be present. A retail clinic, in particular, offers family medicine in a facility built into such retailers as Target, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, and more. These clinics often have a short wait time and are easily found, being built into retail stores that want to be easily found. These two clinic types are popular among Americans; in the 2015 fiscal year, an average of 12,000 patients visited each clinic, meaning about three per hour. In 92% of cases, the wait time can be 30 minutes or less, allowing a clinic to go through many patients in a timely manner.
A client’s personal physician does not have a walk-in clinic like an urgent care center does, but on the other hand, a personal physician knows each of his or her patients’ medical history and needs, and can be visited by appointment, often a stronger alternative to an urgent care clinic. However, if a medical emergency is urgent and the physician is not available, a clinic may have to do.
Finally, a pediatrician can handle children’s illnesses and injury, being specialized to treat such patients. This doctor may or not be able to treat ER-level conditions, but a pediatrician can also perform routine checks and immunizations in kids and infants, and a pediatrician is a personal physician, allowing him or her to track a given child’s medical history and development as the patient grows up. Family medicine is often not complete without a pediatrician tending to the younger family members and tracking development over the years.