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What is urgent care, anyway?

I am Dr. Mark Melrose, and my specialty is emergency medicine.

I am Dr. Mark Melrose, and my specialty is emergency medicine. An emergency physician is a jack-of-all-trades who can diagnose and initially treat almost any unanticipated illness or injury. We answer questions for people: “Is my chest pain a heart attack?” “Does my child have a strep infection?” “Do I need stitches for this cut?” Here in Metro, I will be available to answer your medical questions; shoot me an email at

askdrmark@metro.us. To kick things off, since I recently started caring for patients in my own urgent care medical office, many of my friends and patients who know me as an ER doctor have asked, “What is urgent care, anyway?”

Urgent care centers are walk-in practices that are usually open seven days a week, with extended hours during evenings and weekends when doctors’ offices are closed. When you have an unanticipated illness, injury or health care need that is beyond the scope or availability of a doctor's office (stitches, X-rays, UTIs, IV fluids for a stomach virus, colds, the flu, etc.), urgent care medical practices offer convenient, customer-oriented service. Unlike an ER, you don’t have to compete for care with patients who’ve had heart attacks and trauma victims arriving in ambulances.

The physicians are usually specialists in emergency medicine, but may include family practitioners or internists. Patients may be referred to a specialist if they need a consultation, or back to a primary care doctor for ongoing care.

Visits are often covered by insurance; if you’re paying cash, they start at about $150 for a basic evaluation and treatment. Charges are menu-driven for additional tests and procedures. All in all, they add up to only 20-30 percent of a visit to the ER. The time saved by not waiting in the ER or for a “try to fit you in” doctor appointment is well worth any out-of-pocket expense.

— Mark Melrose, DO, is a board-certified emergency physician and partner at Urgent Care Manhattan. E-mail him your questions at askdrmark@metro.us.

Metro does not endorse the opinions of the author, or any opinions expressed on its pages.

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