We’ve all been there: you or a loved one aren’t feeling well, but it’s well after when your doctor is in the office. Should you go to the hospital? Is that really necessary? Maybe you should wait it out?
More and more people who find themselves in this dilemma are turning toward Urgent Care Centers. These facilities offer fast and effective medical care, and their popularity is growing. There are approximately 9,300 walk-in, stand-alone urgent care centers in the United States today. These centers employ approximately 20,000 physicians, a number which is also on the rise as more and more choose to practice Urgent Care Medicine. Likewise, 50 to 100 new clinics are opening each year.
But where is this dramatic increase coming from? Quite simply, the patient population is demanding a more convenient care option, and the data shows as much. In 2011,the average urgent care center saw 342 patients per week, according to the Urgent Care Association of America. Moreover, the average center experienced a growth rate of roughly 28 additional patients per month.
So why isn’t all medicine practiced at Urgent Care Centers? Why aren’t hospitals obsolete? These establishments don’t necessarily have the level of care necessary to treat all ailments, especially those patients who come in with time-sensitive issues that require immediate, specialized, or critical care. Visits to the emergency room, for example, could not necessarily be replaced by stopping in an urgent care center.
But that exception has recently met its match. New “Convenient Care” centers that provide care for typical Urgent Care-worthy ailments, along with ER care are beginning to appear, and this could mean major changes for the industry.
Each year, there are approximately 110 million emergency room visits. What a Convenient Care Center would offer in replacement, perhaps most notably, would be quite simply er care without the wait. With that in mind, here are four factors to consider in understanding how an Urgent Care Center that also includes er care could be a far better option than the traditional emergency room experience:
- The ER is Simply Not Always Necessary for Proper Treatment
- They Offer the Same Services
- Time is Precious in an Emergency Situation
- Availability – Traditional Care is Dissappearing
When you or a loved one are in extreme pain, it seems like a no-brainer to head to the nearest emergency room. But recent research suggests that it may be smarter to pause and consider an Urgent Care Center.According to a 2009 RAND Corp. study, 14 to 27 percent of ER visits could be handled by Urgent Care centers. Financially, this would save patients and insurance up to $4.4 billion a year in health costs.
And if your ailment is more serious than you believe the typical Urgent Care Center can handle, consider one of the new Convenient Care Centers, which house both standard and emergency care. Just like the ER, 97% of Urgent Care Centers operate seven days a week and 99% are open at least 4 hours per day.
Besides an increase in options and availability, Urgent Care Centers offer er care without the wait.Approximately 60 percent of all centers have a wait time of less than 15 minutes to see a physician or mid-level provider. Even better, 65 percent actually have a physician on-site at all times. On average, urgent care physicians see 4.5 patients per hour, depending on the severity of the patient’s condition(s). Access to this er care without the wait could mean the difference between a worsened condition and quicker recovery.
Besides a shorter wait time, Urgent Care Centers are simply becoming more widely available as compared to traditional emergency rooms. More than two dozen rural hospitals have shut down nationwide since 2013, and fewer medical school seniors selected Family Medicine as their specialty than in 2008. This means general practitioners will be in shorter demand. In fact, the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts that the nation will be short more than 90,000 physicians by 2020. That number is expected to further inflate to 130,000 physicians by 2025.
Again, consider the benefits of Urgent Care Centers to provide potentially life-saving er care without the wait.