Understanding Healthcare Part 2: Clinics

In Part 2 of this series, Understanding Healthcare, we’re discussing clinics, when to use their services, and a list of local resources for people living in East San Diego County.

READ PART 1: Hospitals and medical emergencies


A clinic is an organized medical service offering diagnostic, therapeutic, or preventative outpatient services.

At a clinic, you’ll receive routine preventative care from a doctor/primary care provider. Clinics are usually smaller than hospitals and people do not stay overnight. This is why you’ll often see clinics referred to as “ambulatory” or “outpatient” care clinics because they are meant for people to “ambulate” (walk) in and out of the facility. Most clinics require you to make an appointment prior to visitation via the phone or online unless it allows for same-day appointments, in which case you would simply arrive and wait your turn before seeing a medical professional. Be sure to check the hours of operation as clinics are not always open 24/7.

Clinics can support general health needs or be more specialized. The definition of a clinic has also now expanded to include virtual and mobile services for those that live at a distance. Some general health clinics include:

  • Physician private practices 
  • Group practices 
  • Corporately owned clinics
  • Urgent care centers 
  • Family health centers

Some more specialized types of clinics include:

  • Dental clinics
  • COVID testing clinics
  • Physical therapy clinics
  • Mental health clinics 

Reasons to visit a clinic:

  • Routine preventative health check-ups when you are healthy and/or sick
  • Immunizations
  • Non-emergency medical issues requiring immediate care (e.g. sprains and muscle pulls, small cuts that may require stitching, wheezing/shortness of breath, vomiting and diarrhea, moderate flu-like symptoms, abdominal pain, fever, headache, etc.)

Click here to search for a clinic near you.

READ NEXT | Part 3: Mental health emergencies and clinics

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