The Urgent Care Movement A Significant Contribution to Address Immediate Medical Care Needs
The urgent care movement has significantly expanded since the 1970s when it first began in the United States. This medical model for providing immediate care is now practiced throughout through the world. There are roughly 6,800 urgent care centers in the United States, and most of these are located in individual buildings, such as a regional medical center. Every week, it is estimated that 3 million individuals visit an urgent care facility near them in order to obtain diagnosis and treatment for a variety of non life-threatening issues.
Nearly 75% of these centers employ a variety of medical personnel. This includes physicians, nurse practitioners, and/or physician assistants. A minimum of 1 physician is on-site at all times with 65% of these urgent care centers.
In 2010, a Rand Corporation study focused on hospital emergency room visits versus urgent care centers. It was found that almost 1 in 5 emergency room visits could have been handled in an urgent care center instead. Furthermore, when patients choose urgent care facility services over traditional hospital emergency room services, there could be an annual health-care savings of $4.4 billion.
An average visit to the emergency room, for example, can cost $1,500.00. When someone with the same issue is treated at an urgent care center, however, the average cost would be less than $150.00.
Since only 29% of primary care physicians offer after-hours coverage to their patients, when immediate care is needed during non-business hours, many of these patients turn to hospital emergency rooms for assistance. The Centers for Disease Control conducted a study where it was found that 48% of the adult patients in emergency rooms were there because their regular physicians weren’t available after hours. In other words, they were mostly there for non-life-threatening issues.
Patients don’t need to wait as long to be seen at an urgent care facility. A survey was conducted by the Urgent Care Association of America where it was found that 57% of patients were only required to wait for 15 minutes or less. Approximately 80% of these patients spent an hour or less being diagnosed and treated.
When immediate care is needed after regular business hours, it makes sense to visit a regional medical center. In addition to less wait time, the rates are more affordable at a regional medical center than a traditional hospital emergency room visit. Furthermore, when an issue is non-life-threatening, patients can receive the same level of medical care as they would at a hospital emergency room.