Healthcare Centers in the U.S.—Where to Seek Treatment When You Are Sick
Private schools in the United States typically have a health center (also known as an infirmary) on campus. These, however, aren’t necessarily staffed with doctors or specialists at all times. If a student requires medical attention off-campus or when they’re not at school, there are several options to consider. Here’s what you need to know about health care centers in the U.S.
Remote Appointments (TeleMD)
ISM’s International Scholar Protection provides coverage through our partner, GeoBlue. GeoBlue offers remote telehealth visits through their GlobalMD smartphone app for a variety of health conditions. This service is best used for guidance about conditions such as allergies, cold and flu, insect bites, rashes, sinusitis, and minor ailments requiring prescriptions. Students can quickly schedule a remote appointment through the app.
Providers are available 24 hours a day. Telehealth appointments offer students the treatment and guidance of a physician in the comfort of their own dorm room, and are free to use.
In-Office Doctor’s Visits
Ear aches, colds, stomach aches, sore throats, fever, and routine physicals (anything non-emergency or preventive) are best scheduled in a doctor’s office. Their hours vary, and appointments are typically required and scheduled days or weeks in advance. A primary care physician will discuss your medical history and often have access to previous medical records.
Retail or Convenient Care Clinics
When your child is dealing with a minor medical ailment, such as an infection or a sore throat, they can visit a nurse practitioner at a retail clinic. These clinics are often found in pharmacies, such as CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid. Appointments are not required and they are often available during evenings and weekends. Patients can lessen the wait times by signing up online or calling ahead. These clinics do not have physicians on staff, cannot treat medical emergencies, perform x-rays, or provide stitches. They can however, perform flu, strep, and covid tests, and prescribe antibiotics for infections.
Urgent Care Centers
For non-life threatening but urgent conditions such as cuts that require stitches, or sprains and strains that require x-rays, a trip to the nearest urgent care center is best. These centers have nurses, physicians, and medical assistants on staff and can provide diagnostic testing and x-rays, but not surgical procedures. Urgent-care centers are less expensive than a trip to the emergency room (ER).
Hospital Emergency Rooms
Most hospitals have emergency rooms for life-threatening or disabling conditions, such as heart and respiratory problems, heavy bleeding that won’t stop, and sudden severe pain. Emergency rooms have a full medical staff, including specialists, and are open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
Appointments are not required and patients are often treated according to the severity of their condition. If students are not entirely sure if a trip to the ER is necessary, they can connect with a medical provider through telehealth for a pre-screening.
Before heading to the ER for an emergency, patients should be prepared with a list of current medications, and their own and family medical history. Families can prepare for the worst case scenario by helping students understand that emergency rooms can be crowded and intimidating, but it’s best to remain calm and patient until you are seen by a medical provider. If you’re not sure whether your situation is an emergency, dial 911 and let the operator determine if you need emergency help.
All of these medical centers will request proof of insurance (an insurance ID card) at the time of your visit.