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Urgent Care is the “Love Doctor” Americans Need

It can happen to anyone: a first date gone awry, a new sexual partner or a condom that breaks. Maybe you have an awkward health question that you’re nervous to raise with your doctor, or a pesky rash that won’t go away. Or perhaps you’re navigating a simpler situation altogether: you just moved to a new city and have not yet found a primary care provider you feel truly comfortable with to ask tough health questions. It’s important that you have a provider who understands you and your lifestyle — and treats you with a judgment-free approach.

When a provider’s office is closed, urgent care clinics can be an affordable and reliable place to turn to in your community — and an important step in your care journey. Urgent medical conditions are situations that aren’t considered life-threatening emergencies, but still need to be addressed within 24 hours and can’t wait until the next day, according to Mt. Sinai. And while urgent care is not a replacement for primary care, these clinics offer a wide suite of services to help you out in unexpected moments of need.

You may already consider urgent care clinics a go-to spot for things like accidents or falls, eye irritation or fever. But perhaps less known is that they can also be a great place to seek support when it comes to diagnostics and testing for health and sexual health-related issues like UTIs, STDs and STIs, and other infections, according to Mt. Sinai.

Urgent Care is the “Love Doctor” Americans Need

It can happen to anyone: a first date gone awry, a new sexual partner or a condom that breaks. Maybe you have an awkward health question that you’re nervous to raise with your doctor, or a pesky rash that won’t go away. Or perhaps you’re navigating a simpler situation altogether: you just moved to a new city and have not yet found a primary care provider you feel truly comfortable with to ask tough health questions. It’s important that you have a provider who understands you and your lifestyle — and treats you with a judgment-free approach.

When a provider’s office is closed, urgent care clinics can be an affordable and reliable place to turn to in your community — and an important step in your care journey. Urgent medical conditions are situations that aren’t considered life-threatening emergencies, but still need to be addressed within 24 hours and can’t wait until the next day, according to Mt. Sinai. And while urgent care is not a replacement for primary care, these clinics offer a wide suite of services to help you out in unexpected moments of need.

You may already consider urgent care clinics a go-to spot for things like accidents or falls, eye irritation or fever. But perhaps less known is that they can also be a great place to seek support when it comes to diagnostics and testing for health and sexual health-related issues like UTIs, STDs and STIs, and other infections, according to Mt. Sinai.

The rise of urgent care

The number of these on-demand facilities has been rising across the U.S. in recent years, according to Consumer Reports. The total number of urgent care centers in the U.S. reached more than 9000 in 2019, a notable uptick from roughly 6000 centers that existed in 2013, according to Statista.

The number of urgent care visits was already rising between 2008 and 2015, according to a study from JAMA Internal Medicine. Meanwhile, Covid-19 care and the pandemic accelerated this trend, according to Vox.

When it comes to intimate or personal care issues, the anonymity of such clinics might help patients feel more safe addressing issues they feel less comfortable discussing with their regular provider. At an urgent care clinic, you’ll be treated by a clinician you might not know or have an ongoing relationship with, which may make it easier for patients to be transparent and forthcoming about what’s going on or their concerns.

A pillar in emotional, intimate or stressful situations

Put simply, it can be hard to find a provider that you feel like you can confide in without hesitation or judgment. Disclosing intimate concerns or medical situations to a primary care physician involves building trust over time. This trust can be especially difficult to build in marginalized communities who experience discrimination and bias in healthcare settings, leading to less trust in medical systems — such as LGBTQ+ communities, Black Americans and Latinx communities.

Perhaps you live in a small community where many folks see the same primary care providers. Some people may want to seek care someplace where they can feel fully anonymous, and not judged or seen by others, for the particular medical care they need.

The less established relationships between provider and patient at urgent care clinics can be a surprising benefit: because you don’t know if you’ll ever see that clinician again, it may feel easier to discuss or disclose the personal or intimate situations that brought you into the office.

Sexual health and wellness

Urgent care is also often a reliable place to go for fast, on-demand and accessible STI testing — whether that’s during days, nights or weekends according to Mt. Sinai.

Many Americans who need routine or precautionary STD or STI tests use urgent care facilities — rather than a private practice or primary care physicians — if they’re concerned they might have contracted an infection and need to get tested quickly, according to Dr. Rob Rohatsch, Chief Medical Officer for Solv Health. Whether it’s in response to an acute issue or routine checks, many clinics offer a wide suite of testing with robust treatment services, according to Dr. Rohatsch.

What are the benefits of taking this route? To start, urgent care facilities are often more affordable than hospitals or some private practices, according to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine. There’s also the convenience factor: they often have longer operating hours than a private practice. This can help you get care that doesn’t interfere with your work schedule, commitments or responsibilities while providing the opportunity to be treated quickly.

Crucial care option for the LGBTQ+ community

It’s critical for LGBTQ+ folks to access high-quality, culturally competent medical providers without fear of violence, harassment or denial of the services they need. But there are still far too many barriers to getting there: a survey from the Center for American Progress illustrates the plethora of discriminatory treatment that many LGBTQ+ people face in healthcare settings. More than 1/3 of LGBTQ+ Americans say they've had a negative experience with a health care provider over the past two years, according to KFF survey research. Leading some people to not feel safe coming out to their primary care providers, despite the importance of that information in their healthcare journey. 

Experiences with stigma and discrimination can influence LGBTQ+ patients’ decisions to get care, and an estimated 7 of 10 LGBTQ+ patients have had negative experiences, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Such experiences can lead to people avoiding health care settings, reports John Hopkins.

Given such obstacles to medical care, many people in LGBTQ+ communities may rely on urgent care centers as a key place to get medical treatment. Roughly 1 in 5 LGBTQ+ people who have a usual source of care seek medical treatment at a clinic — like urgent care centers, health centers or clinics within stores or pharmacies, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. And among those folks who typically visit health centers or clinics, 38 percent go to urgent care centers or in-store clinics. LGBTQ+ people ranging from the ages of 18 to 44 report being less likely to have a regular or health care provider than LGBTQ+ folks older than 44, according to Kaiser Family Foundation.

All of this makes it all the more important that urgent care clinics are on the frontlines to ensure inclusive, culturally competent practices to create safe environments for folks to seek care, according to the Journal of Urgent Care Medicine.

How Solv can help you find urgent care near you

If you’re looking for care with STD/STI testing and don’t know where to begin, Solv’s new lab finder can help you find an urgent care clinic near you. Nationwide urgent care locations can also help you address everything from rashes, to symptoms of STIs, to mental health concerns. 

Becoming a member of Solv Plus will also provide you with access to virtual providers within 15 minutes, 24/7. Using Solv’s telehealth services to speak with a provider can also jumpstart your care journey so you can get the services and support you need — and help connect you with referrals or follow-up appointments — in a way that feels convenient, accessible and inclusive.

Sources

Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

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