How do online clinics, urgent care and walk-in clinics compare?

Time saver 3 min read

You’re not feeling great, and maybe you know what you have or maybe you don’t. It’s not an emergency, but it’s uncomfortable enough that you don’t want to wait for an appointment. What do you do?

The good news is that today you have options. Between online clinics, urgent care, and walk-in clinics, there is definitely someone to take care of you. But what’s the best choice?

The answer will vary depending on your situation, but often it comes down to three big questions:

What can be treated?

The first step in picking an option, is knowing that the clinic can actually treat your condition.

  • Urgent care typically offers the widest range of services. They have multiple staff members available on any shift, and have access to the most medical equipment. They are a great place when you know you need hands-on treatment. Think stitches and minor sprains and strains.
  • Walk-in clinics can be a good option for more minor complaints, like if you suspect you have strep throat or if you have a child that is showing signs of an ear infection. Flu shots and other vaccines are other reasons to visit.
  • Then there’s online care. When you’ve got the simple stuff like pink eye, birth control refills, sinus infections, UTIs, rashes... it's a smart choice.  At our online clinic, many patients complete a visit, get their treatment plan, AND pick up medications and prescriptions in about an hour.

What’s open?

Availability is a big deal for some health care issues. It might not be an emergency, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want it taken care of as soon as possible, or at a time that is convenient for you.

  • Urgent care clinics are open in the evenings and on weekends, but they can get busy, especially in cold or flu season. Your wait for treatment could be anywhere from 0 to 3 hours. It’s a good idea to check a clinic’s website for wait times before you head out.
  • Walk-in clinics are usually a little faster, but because they have fewer staff working they can get backed up quickly during the peak flu and crud season. Wait times typically range from 0 to 1 hour to be seen.
  • Online care offers the best access with some options open all the time. Our online clinic is open 24/7 with nurse practitioners ready to treat you whenever you need it. And you don’t have to drive anywhere, so it's easy to start from work or home.

What will it cost?

We know health care can be expensive and health care billing can be confusing. Ideally you don’t want the costs to be a surprise.

  • Urgent care is typically the most expensive option. An urgent care visit averages between $180 and $220. If you have a high deductible insurance plan, costs like these can be painful.
  • If you have a walk-in clinic nearby, the average cost is between $90 and $110. When you know you have to be seen in person, this may be your best priced option. Sometimes walk-in clinics take insurance, which could reduce your cost, but some are cash only. Make sure you know before you go.
  • A Virtuwell visit costs as little as $0, with insurance. If insurance doesn’t fully cover the cost, or you don’t use insurance, visits cost $79 or $89 (depending on the condition). Every visit includes a diagnosis, treatment plan, prescriptions (if needed) and follow-up care.

Make sure you do get checked out. If you’re not feeling well or your symptoms seem to be getting worse, it's best to get help from a medical professional, online or otherwise. 

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