January 22, 2021

Orthopedic walk in clinic vs. ER: Which should you choose?

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Weigh the advantages and disadvantages so you can be prepared during an emergency.

After Jim Pickford fell and fractured his arm, he knew he needed help — fast!

“The first time I saw him, he walked in for a same-day appointment,” said Eric N. Bowman, M.D., assistant professor, Sports Medicine Orthopaedic Surgery. “He couldn’t move his arm.” Pickford had broken his humerus, a long bone in the arm that runs from the shoulder to the elbow. Bowman saw him just hours after the injury when Pickford came to the Vanderbilt Orthopaedic Injury Clinic as a walk-in. Pickford works in Kentucky during the week, making typical doctors’ appointments a challenge to schedule, so he was grateful to be able to receive the care he needed at his convenience.

When I saw him again, he was doing very well pain-wise,” said Bowman. “We did some more X-rays and everything clinically looked like he was doing well, but he needed the next stage of treatment: Moving, getting his strength back and guidance on how to do that.”

Convenient care

When an emergency arises, it’s important to know that you have options. Orthopedic walk-in clinics offer advantages for fractures, muscle injuries and other orthopedic emergencies — often with time- and cost-saving results.

“The clinic is a convenient way for patients to get treatment right away,” said Bowman. “I saw people last night who said, ‘I’m really glad you have this because I can’t get here during the day because of work.’”

The orthopedic walk-in clinic, which is staffed exclusively by orthopedic physicians, is open after-hours on weekdays and on Saturday mornings. It offers splinting, casting, diagnostic imaging, concussion screening and a variety of tests, treatments and services. Each month, physicians see about 250 patients who mainly suffer from acute injuries such as sprains, strains and fractures. These patients have more in common than just their injuries, pain and desire to receive medical attention, however. They also want to avoid wait and cost of visiting the emergency department.

Saving time and money

When patients walk into the clinic, they are paired with an orthopedic provider right away. They are in and out in a much quicker timeframe but with similar services they would find in an ED or urgent care facility.

And so, Pickford, along with the many patients that Bowman and his colleagues see, saved time and money by seeking treatment at the orthopedic walk in clinic.

“It saved him from going to the ED and, time-wise, he spent about a half-hour here rather than the hour or more that people sometimes wait in urgent care,” Bowman said. “And for probably significantly less costs, as we charge for an office visit rather than a visit to the emergency department.”

The Vanderbilt Orthopaedic Injury Clinic in Franklin accepts walk-in appointments in the evenings and weekends and offers both same-day and walk-in appointments throughout the day. Click here to learn more and to “Save My Spot.”

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