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FOX Medical Team

Walk-in clinics offer alternative to ERs

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ATLANTA -

When you feel awful but your doctor can't see you until Thursday, where do you go? For many Georgians, the answer is just around the corner at their local drugstore or urgent care center.

Walk-in facilities don't require an appointment and they're open when your doctor's office isn't. The biggest thing they offer is convenience when you can't - or really don't want - to wait.
 
When Derrick Phillips got hit in the head with a 16-foot-long 2-by-6  on the set of the new "Hunger Games" movie,  the 29-year-old carpenter knew he probably had a concussion, but he didn't want to go to the emergency room. Instead, he went to North Atlanta Urgent Care.

"You know how the emergency room can get, it can be hours upon hours upon hours and things like that.  So, I came in here, it was small, it was more efficient in terms of service time," said Phillips.

Raul Rodon is an emergency physician at North Atlanta Urgent Care.

"I see a lot of patients, they go to the emergency room, and they get treated and they get well-treated.  And then they get a bill for 5, 8- $9,000," said Rodon.

At North Atlanta Urgent Care, patients pay on average about $125 and $150 dollars,

"We're doing the same thing, they're getting the same treatment," said Rodon.

During busy times, the wait can be about an hour.  This clinic can do many of the same tests as the ER: strep throat, rapid flu test, x-rays and even EKGs.

"We see a lot of trauma, meaning motor vehicle collision – lacerations, broken bones, strains, sprains," said Rodon.

They also treat a lot of infections.

What they can't treat are life-threatening problems, like stroke or heart attack and about 15 percent of the time, the patient still has to go to the E.R.
 
"But you got a 90 to 85 percent reassurance that you're going to be able to be seen fast, that you're not going to spend that much money, and that you're going to get quality care and treatment," said Rodon.

Across town in the back of a Decatur CVS store, Brittany Porch came looking for help. She had pink eye.

"Yeah, I just saw a commercial on the news for MinuteClinic on the news, and it's Friday, and I didn't want to have to wait until Monday to see my doctor," said Porch.

Brittany waited about an hour to see a nurse practitioner who diagnosed conjunctivitis, and wrote a prescription for eye drops.

MinuteClinic's Sheila Wilkey says they're open in the early evenings and on weekends for anyone who walks in.

"So you can come in, sign in and wait to be seen. If there's a long line, we'll let you know, you can do go something else and return when it's convenient for you," said Wilkey.

MinuteClinic charges between $79 and $89 dollars -- more if you need tests.
    
"We can evaluate all different kids of upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, rashes," said Wilkey.

Wilkey says MinuteClinics are not equipped to handle major medical emergencies, like car accidents.

"If you have a large cut that requires stitches, if you've had a head injury -- those are the things we want you to see further care for and the MinuteClinic may not be the best destination for you in that case," said Wilkey.

Back at North Atlanta Urgent Care, Derrick, diagnosed with a concussion, was sent to get a CT scan, which is covered by his insurance just in case.
     
"I still got a little knot here, but when I go home my wife will make me feel better.  Cook me some soup or something," said Rodon.

If you have health insurance, your plan may cover a visit to urgent care or a MinuteClinic and that could make your visit significantly less expensive.

Dr. Rodon says if you're worried about the wait, call the clinic and ask how busy they are, and what might be the best time to come in and be seen.

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