Cold and flu season is upon us and with the increase in the number of common colds, flu-like illnesses, and actual influenza infections set to rise during the winter months, urgent care centers and walk-in clinics are poised to see an increase in daily visits.  Medical assessment tools can help these clinics provide accurate assessment and management to patients who need care.

Around the country, adults often find themselves stuck when they wake up feeling ill. Same day sick visits can be difficult to obtain for millions in the United States. Even if a same day sick visit can be accommodated by a primary care provider, the timing may not work for the patient because of personal or business obligations.  While telemedicine visits can help alleviate some of these issues, many people will be seeking an in-person examination at an urgent care or walk-in clinic.

This can create a bottleneck of patients who often just want an antibiotic prescription, thinking that their illness is related to a bacterial infection. In fact, the majority of these winter illnesses are viral and thus do not respond to antibiotics. They will instead run their course and symptoms can be improved with fever reducers, rest, and time.

Utilizing medical algorithms physicians and other healthcare providers at urgent cares or walk-in clinics can quickly reference evidence-based algorithms to assist in the clinical decision making on whether or not antibiotics or further testing/workup is indicated. Many algorithms can even be incorporated into the triage portion of the patient sign-in through the urgent care or walk-in clinic. A few examples include:

  1. Risk Factors For Severe Infection with a Common Cold VirusRisk Factors For Severe Infection with a Common Cold Virus
  2. Flu-like SymptomsFlu-like Symptoms
  3. CDC Criteria for PneumoniaCDC Criteria for Pneumonia
  4. CDC/NHSN Criteria for GastroenteritisCDC/NHSN Criteria for Gastroenteritis
  5. Diagnosis of Traveler’s DiarrheaDiagnosis of Traveler’s Diarrhea

Incorporating medical algorithms into the triage and/or assessment component of an urgent care or walk-in clinic visit can improve the quality of care and may reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions.