Getting the healthcare you need, when you need it, seems to be getting harder rather than easier. Many doctors are booked out for months, and their available appointment times may not work for you. If healthcare scheduling has got you down, you may need to think outside the box. No one else can advocate for your health better than you can. Here are a few lesser-known ways to receive the care you need even when you can’t get an appointment.
1. Get Help Online
If you can’t get on your preferred physician’s schedule within a reasonable time period, there are other options available. Nowadays, you can get many of your basic healthcare needs taken care of without stepping foot in a doctor’s office. All you need is a computer or smart device, access to the internet, and a payment method. Keep in mind that this option isn’t intended for serious medical issues. But it works great for non-emergency needs.
For example, if you need contraception, there’s arguably no easier way to get it than through an online healthcare provider. You’ll simply need to fill out an intake form, and a qualified medical professional will prescribe online birth control for you. No need to worry about complicated appointment scheduling processes or spending an inordinate amount of time in a waiting room. You can fill out your intake form whenever it’s convenient for you.
2. Meet With a Physician Assistant
There’s a growing shortage of primary care physicians in the United States. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians by the year 2034. What this means for you is that it could become even harder to schedule appointments with a physician in the future. What many patients don’t realize is that there are other qualified healthcare providers who work in most clinics.
For example, a skilled physician assistant or nurse practitioner may have better availability than a primary care physician. They are well-equipped to handle many health concerns and perform various diagnostic tests as needed. If the problem is outside their expertise, they can coordinate with other clinicians to ensure your needs are met.
3. Go to an Urgent Care Clinic
When you have pressing medical concerns that are urgent but not life-threatening, consider going to an urgent care clinic. You often don’t need to worry about scheduling an appointment at these types of clinics because they accept walk-ins. However, without an appointment, you will need to prepare for a potentially long wait time. The wait time may be well worth it if your primary care physician can’t see you for months.
It’s important to realize that an urgent care clinic may not be the best destination for chronic healthcare needs. For those, you probably want to seek more specialized care from a physician who is well-acquainted with your health history. You may also want to go elsewhere if you have multiple health concerns that need addressing. But if you have a single health concern or illness, an urgent care facility may be sufficient for your needs.
4. Call Your Local Hospital
If you have a chronic disease or other ongoing health issues, access to reliable care is essential. You may not have the luxury of waiting months for a physician or specialist appointment. You may also find that an urgent care clinic doesn’t have the expertise or equipment necessary to handle your case. And, depending on the severity of your health issue, a physician assistant or nurse practitioner may not provide sufficient care.
In these situations, you may be able to get some help by calling your local hospital. Ask to talk to a case manager. Sometimes, hospital case managers can help arrange the care you need with various clinics. Often, case managers have connections and information that can help patients get the prompt care they need. Hospital case managers may not be able to help every patient, but reaching out to them is worth a try.
5. Go to the Emergency Room
Sometimes, a seemingly minor health issue can turn into a serious health emergency while you’re waiting for a doctor’s appointment. If this happens to you, don’t wait until your scheduled appointment arrives. Instead, go to the emergency room right away and get the care you require. An ER visit may cost more than the appointment you scheduled with your physician, but it could save your life.
It’s not always easy to tell if you’re dealing with a life-threatening condition or something less serious. But if you have chest pain, struggle to breathe, or have any other serious symptoms, it’s better to be safe than sorry. A trip to the ER is also warranted if you’re bleeding profusely or have bumped your head very hard.
If you want to live a long and healthy life, access to quality healthcare is important. When your preferred doctor is booked out for months, you may want to consider an alternative. Depending on the type of care you need, one of the above suggestions may be a great fit. You deserve access to quality healthcare even when you can’t get an appointment with your regular doctor.