Urgent Care medicine is a fast growing field today with over 20,000 practicing physicians. The urgent care model provides walk-in medical services for patients with non-emergency conditions. The best urgent care centers now provide both urgent care as well as an Emergency Room in the same location, making it much easier to access necessary medical care.
A fast-growing medical field
Walk-in, stand alone urgent care centers represent a new model of medical care and their numbers are increasing. At the present time, there are around 9,300 such facilities in the country, and each year 50 to 100 new clinics are opened.
Each urgent care center saw an average of 342 patients per week in 2011, as reported by the Urgent Care Association of America. Emergency room visits are also on the rise, and have shown a 22% in the past ten years. They now number around 110 million annually.
Urgent care costs less than emergency care
For many people, emergency room visits serve as primary healthcare. This is a costly and time-consuming model of healthcare. As many as 14 to 27% of emergency room visits could be handled by Urgent Care clinics, according to a study conducted by the RAND corporation in 2009. This would lead to an overall saving of $4.4 billion a year in healthcare costs.
The need for urgent care facilities will grow, leading researchers to project a shortfall in the number of doctors in the future. The Association of American Medical Colleges projects a shortage of more than 90,000 physicians by 2020 and 130,000 by 2025.
The best urgent care care centers provide quality medical care for non-life-threatening conditions, illnesses and injuries like flu, stomach aches, backaches, dizziness, cramps, etc. They are a convenient and low cost alternative to making a doctors appointment or waiting in the emergency room for simple ailments.
Benefits of urgent care
The best urgent care centers offer a number of benefits: immediate access to medical care on a walk-in basis, lower costs than emergency care, fully qualified physicians and technical staff, and longer hours, including on weekends.
- Lower costs
Urgent care visits cost on average a third of emergency room visits, at about $103 per patient, compared with $302 per patient.
- Shorter wait times
Nearly two thirds or about 60% of all urgent care centers report wait times of less than 15 minutes to see a doctor. And 65% report that there is a physician on duty at all times.
- Extended and weekend hours
As reported in 2014, nearly all urgent care centers, or 97%, are open seven days a week.
Since the best urgency care facilities have both urgent care and emergency care facilities on site, patients can be directed as appropriate for timely and cost-efficient medical care. The best urgent care centers provide timely primary medical care as well as emergency services. This new model of medical care will continue to grow, leading to more accessible and less costly medical services.