My Child Had a Great Urgent Care Visit…What’s Next?
Urgent care practices are invaluable community resources that provide families with specialized medical support in times of immediate need. I may be biased, but I truly believe that urgent care can be an integral part of a patient’s health network, working alongside primary care providers that, when done right, can ensure seamless, comprehensive care. When a child suddenly becomes ill or sustains an injury, a pediatric urgent care office can be a lifesaver – literally – because emergencies do not wait for convenient times when our primary healthcare professional is readily available. That said, the nature of urgent care can sometimes leave parents feeling unsure about next steps after a visit: do we follow up with the urgent care provider? Do we let our regular pediatrician know what happened? Who will guide us in further treatment, if necessary? Let’s talk about that!
It Starts During the Visit
I know that when our child is hurting, the last thing on our minds is taking notes or obtaining documents. However, being attentive to all medical details throughout the urgent care visit is key to a stress-free experience afterwards. Here are some ways to be an active participant:
- Do your best to ask attending staff questions to make sure you understand everything that is happening with your child.
- Take notes on your mobile phone, the back of an envelope, whatever will help you remember.
- Ask for the exact diagnosis, copies of test results and x-rays, if applicable. Inquire about an online patient portal – this is a useful resource that is standard practice at many medical offices, which allows you to access a summary of your visit, treatment notes, test results, x-rays, and other important documentation. It can also allow you to message the office if you need to after the visit.
There are a few important questions to ask before leaving the urgent care office. Knowing the answers to these questions may help ease your mind and empower you to confidently continue the care initiated by medical professionals at home.
Should I take my child to see our pediatrician next?
The answer to this question will depend on the reason for your visit. Sometimes, a simple phone check-in may be sufficient. Other times, your pediatrician will be the one to direct further care as necessary. This is also a time to ask about the urgent care office’s policy on record transfer and communication with local medical practices. For instance, at PM Pediatric Care, we fax a clinical report of our patients’ visits to their primary doctor’s office to keep them updated on the care we provided.
Should I follow up with a specialist?
This depends on the reason for your child’s visit. Sometimes, your urgent care provider will direct you to see both your primary doctor and a specialist if the issue requires this. Make sure you know the type of specialist you should be looking for and the exact concern to bring up once you see them.
What about cost?
If you have insurance, ask about the office policy on filing insurance claims, and if they are in your network. It’s a good idea to look up your benefits as they apply to emergency care and ask any questions you might need answered to make sure you’re getting the coverage you need. If you do not have insurance, ask about payment and support options.
What medications or prescriptions are necessary?
If the urgent care provider prescribes medication for your child’s concern, ask about specific details and directions for administering it: times, doses, potential side effects, etc. Is the prescription written out and given to you, or sent directly to the pharmacy? If the hour is late, ask if the first dose can be given at the urgent care office in case there isn’t a 24-hour pharmacy nearby.
What does recovery consist of?
This is a big one. Make sure that before you leave the office, you know what to do moving forward to continue caring for your child. How long should you expect the recovery period to last? Are there any signs or symptoms to watch out for that might signal a need to seek additional medical help? Are there diet and activity restrictions you need to be aware of? What are some ways to make your child more comfortable as they recover?
Being thorough and confident in your approach to following up after an urgent care visit will help you support your little one and give you peace of mind about their recovery. Always remember that you play a crucial role in your child’s care, and that you deserve to know everything that is going on. Don’t be shy to advocate for your child in the moment; be an active listener and participant in the process of their care. Doing so will give you a clearer idea of what to do after the emergency passes and your kiddo is