Imagine this scenario: You or someone in your household has fallen ill, whether it be a stomach bug or a contagious disease. You know a doctor’s visit is needed to diagnose and treat the illness quickly, but your doctor’s office is either closed, completely booked for the day, closed for a holiday, or just not answering the phone.
While your situation is not an emergency, you still want to receive immediate medical care so you can alleviate your symptoms and prevent any worse issues.
So, what do you do? Who do you call? Where do you go?
This is an unfortunate dilemma that many people face daily. Most primary care providers are great about making room in the appointment lineup for walk-ins and last-minute visits; it’s not always feasible. There are only so many hours in the day, and when you pair that with flu season or the newest COVID-19 variants, making room in the schedule for last-minute appointments can be difficult for your doctor.
There are several different solutions you can try when you can’t get a doctor’s appointment.
While primary care offices likely have a first-come, first-service policy as it relates to last-minute or walk-in appointments, if you are thorough, firm, and communicative on the phone about your urgent medical needs, you are more likely to get an appointment on the same or next day.
Make sure you emphasize the importance of why you are calling and what you need. Be thorough in explaining your problem, symptoms, and how you feel, especially if your symptoms are worsening. By emphasizing the severity of your problem, the medical staff will work hard to find a way to fit you in the schedule or offer other assistance.
You can also ask the medical staff to consult with your doctor and return your call; with this route, the medical team can let your doctor know about your situation and determine whether it’s an urgent matter that needs care that day or if it is something that can wait.
When you try to schedule an office visit and find out that you can’t get a doctor’s appointment, ask if another doctor or nurse has availability. While your primary care physician may not be available to take the appointment, that does not always mean there is not anyone who can see you in their office. Most primary care doctors also have a staffed-up team of registered nurses or other physicians who work in the same office.
If you need medical care and cannot wait another day — and also do not mind meeting with another physician — ask the front desk receptionist if there is someone else you can see. If there is someone else you can meet with, you can still receive care when you need it and in a trusted office that already has your insurance, medical history, and information.
If you still can’t get a doctor’s appointment and there is no one else in the office who can see you, ask for a referral or recommendation. The entire staff likely knows all the local physicians in the area and can direct you to another office to see if there is availability for an appointment elsewhere.
If your medical needs require specific care, you can also ask for a referral for a specialist. This way, you know that the referral doctor is trusted and will be as helpful as they can.
Doctor’s office unavailable or you cannot reach them? Another option you have is to talk to a pharmacist. While they cannot diagnose and treat you, they can offer some initial assessments of your symptoms and help you find another doctor. Pharmacists are highly trained medical professionals.
If you are in a bind and do not know who else to reach out to, give your local pharmacy a call or stop into the pharmacy to talk to them in person and figure out your next steps.
Walk-in clinics are one of the best options when you can’t get a doctor’s appointment or when your doctor is unavailable. It is an excellent choice for non-life-threatening or minor issues. Most walk-in care facilities (i.e., Urgent Care, Care Now, etc.) are open later hours and on weekends, which makes it easier for you to find medical care when your doctor’s office is closed. With walk-in care, you do not have to be a prior patient at that office, and getting an appointment same-day is usually feasible.
Unsure if your illness or injury warrants a visit to an Urgent Care or an emergency room? Check out our blog, When Should You Go to the ER vs. Urgent Care?
Modern medicine and technology paired together is a wonderful thing, making it easier than ever for you to get help from home when you either can’t get out or can’t get a doctor’s appointment. Telehealth providers are a viable alternative to visiting a doctor in person and offer you access to U.S. board-certified physicians who can resolve many of your medical issues at any time of day.
Appointments are conducted via video chat or on the phone. The average call-back time for a telehealth provider is far less than a wait at your doctor’s office. Be sure to check with your health insurance provider to learn about your telehealth options and any co-pays.
Some doctor’s offices and pediatricians also have a 24/7 nurse triage line you can call for medical advice. The next time you visit or talk to your doctor, be sure to ask for this number and save it in your phone contacts for future use. The call-back time for the nurse line may vary depending on the number of patients waiting in the queue; however, the nurses can offer professional medical advice and any next steps to ensure proper and immediate medical care.
If you are not feeling your best, the worst thing you can do is to wait it out and hope you will get better on your own. It is important that you visit with a medical professional to evaluate, diagnose, and treat your symptoms quickly.
If your injury or illness is minor, try some of the above options for further care. You can also check out our other blog, Most Common Minor Injuries and How to Properly Administer First Aid, for additional help.
However, if your conditions are more severe or worsen, our team at ER Near Me is ready to help. ER Near Me is a concierge Texas emergency room with staff that welcomes patients around the clock, offering emergency medical assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Plus, we offer little to no wait time and on-site radiology services. Find your nearest Texas emergency room here.