Odds are, if you live in a highly populated area, you have seen an exponential growth in the number of Urgent Care Centers and Minute Clinics in your area. In fact, it is estimated that more than 300 new Urgent Care Centers open per year, and this growth trend is not expected to decrease anytime soon. The reason for this is that Urgent Care Centers fill and important Gap in the Healthcare ecosystem for both patients and providers.
Around the country, there are about 6,400 urgent care centers, each of which sees on average 342 patients a week, according to the Urgent Care Association of America.
Helping People Get the Care They Need When They Need It
Urgent Care Centers are increasingly becoming a solution for patients to healthcare access problems. Some studies indicate that they typical wait to be seen by a primary care provider in some areas, depending on what you need to be seen for may take months.
According to a recent article in the New York Times “patients waited an average of 29 days nationally to see a dermatologist for a skin exam, 66 days to have a physical in Boston, and 32 days for a heart evaluation by a cardiologist in Washington.”
On average it can take a patient 6 days or more to secure an appointment with a primary care provider, and traditional office hours may require that they take time off of work for their appointment. This is where Urgent Care Centers fill an important gap in the healthcare ecosystem. With walk in availability, convenient after-hours appointments, and an increasingly wide variety of healthcare services Urgent Care Centers are becoming a more convenient – and often cost effective – alternative to long waits. More and more patients are turning to Urgent Care Centers to meet their immediate healthcare needs when they can’t get timely access to an appropriate primary care provider improving access to care.
An Appropriate Alternative to the Emergency Room
Urgent Care Centers are also becoming an increasingly viable alternative toward seeking care in an Emergency Room/Emergency Department setting. In fact, many hospitals have entered into the Urgent Care market opening centers which effectively route patients to Urgent Care Centers, when appropriate, rather than to the emergency room. This not only saves patients money, but may provide cost savings for the healthcare industry in general.
One RAND Corp. study concluded that “about 17 percent of all ER visits could be handled at retail medical clinics or urgent care centers, saving an estimated $4.4 billion a year in health care costs.”
This is excellent news for patients who do not want to play the waiting game to get their healthcare needs met, ER departments who are facing severe doctor’s shortages and insurers who are looking for more cost effective ways to route patients to appropriate healthcare pathways.
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