medical care

Clinic, Hospital, or Private Practice: Which One Should You Choose?

Let us say you need medical care. In that scenario, you know you must talk to a medical professional. However, you have more options for your medical care than you ever had before.

In this article, we will talk about some of the choices available to you. We’ll discuss each one’s benefits and drawbacks, and we’ll also cover some situations where each one makes the most sense.


You might have seen clinics before or heard about them. You can usually find them in major cities, though you likely won’t see them as much if you visit a smaller community or somewhere rural. For instance, you might visit a medical clinic in Houston if you live in the area. You can find clinics in most other large cities as well.

Some clinics charge you nothing, or they charge you very little. Most people understand that if they need medical care and have very little money, no health insurance, or lower-tier health insurance, they might want to visit a clinic if they need medical assistance.

Many clinics have a walk-in policy, meaning you don’t need an appointment before a doctor sees you. However, if you walk into a clinic, it’s highly likely you’ll have a lot of people in line ahead of you.

Also, if you visit a clinic, you might get medical care at a drastically reduced price, but the clinic will not have anywhere near the amount of resources that a hospital will. If you walk into a clinic with a gunshot wound to the abdomen, they will immediately call an ambulance and send you off to the hospital. However, if you have something like an STD, a clinic might seem like the superior option to you.


If you call for an ambulance by dialing 911, that probably means you have what you consider a serious and pressing medical emergency. Maybe you suddenly experience horrible abdominal pain, for example. Perhaps you accidentally chop off one of your fingers while cooking dinner. If so, you will probably call 911 and have them take you via an ambulance to the nearest hospital with an emergency room.

That ambulance ride isn’t free, nor is it cheap. Keep that in mind. When you get to the hospital, you can also expect the receptionist at the desk who checks you in to ask you about your health insurance before they assist you.

Technically, a hospital has an obligation to help you if you walk into the emergency room and it’s obvious that you’re near death. However, hospitals have a for-profit status, meaning they’re just as concerned with making money as they are saving your life.

If you go to a hospital, though, particularly a reputable one, you should get better care than you would at a clinic. That’s not necessarily because the doctors at the hospital have better training or they’re more engaged in their jobs. It’s more because the hospital has better resources, such as the latest and most up-to-date medical equipment, that the clinic will not have.

For instance, if a doctor feels that you need an X-ray, they can probably do that at a clinic. If they feel you need an MRI, however, it’s not likely most clinics will have the necessary machinery.

They will send you to the hospital, and you’d better hope you have good health insurance. Otherwise, they may not willingly treat you, despite the moral ramifications that decision could bring up. That’s the reality of the American medical system.  

Private Practices

If you go to a private practice, you can usually see your doctor. You will likely have established a relationship with that doctor, possibly over a period of many years.

In the best of circumstances, you can find a doctor you like and continue going to that private practice as time passes. If they make you feel comfortable, then you can talk to them about medical issues that you’re going through. That includes personal ones you might feel reluctant to talk about with a doctor or some other medical professional at a clinic or hospital.

If you have health insurance, then presumably, the doctor at a private practice will take it. They may have some kinds of health insurance that they don’t take, but the receptionist can tell you about that beforehand. If necessary, you can always go with another doctor at a different private practice if you find one you like, but they don’t accept your insurance.

You can get a regular checkup from a doctor at a private practice. However, they can’t help you with very urgent matters. You still need a hospital with an emergency room in those situations.

Urgent Care Facilities

You have one additional option, an urgent care facility. Urgent care facilities have seen a lot of growth over the past few years. If you visit some cities, you might feel like there’s one on nearly every corner.

Urgent care facilities share the most with clinics. You will usually find a couple of doctors on call there, or sometimes more, depending on the facility’s size.

They will ask you about your health insurance when you arrive, just like a hospital will. With most health insurance plans, you will pay a copay, and then someone at the facility will see you.

Urgent care facilities aren’t usually cheap, but they still cost considerably less than hospital emergency rooms. Again, though, they won’t have all the machinery and equipment you can find at the hospital.

You might visit the urgent care facility if you have something like an infected finger. The doctor on call can probably lance and drain it before prescribing you antibiotics. If they believe there is something more seriously wrong with you, they will likely point you in the direction of the nearest hospital emergency room.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of the various medical facilities available to you if you feel sick or you’ve sustained an injury.  

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