Urgent care centers, while a fairly new addition to the healthcare industry, have already had a significant impact on how people access medical care: in a time when thousands of local doctors offices and emergency rooms find themselves overwhelmed by the high volume of patients they see, urgent care clinics provide an alternative method for treating a wide array of non-life-threatening medical problems that require immediate attention. This firstly helps hospital emergency rooms and doctors offices, but also the patients: an estimated 35% of emergency room visits in the United States could have been treated faster and more affordably at an urgent care facility.
Urgent care centers are typically able to offer a number of benefits to their patients: firstly, treatment times are usually faster, with an estimated 69% of urgent care patients waiting an average of 20 minutes or less for treatment. Secondly, many urgent care facilities offer 24 hour urgent care for the convenience of their patients, and encourage walk appointments at any time. Thirdly, urgent care centers treat a wide array of medical problems: for example, in 2012, the most common diagnosis given at American urgent care clinics was an upper respiratory infection, but an estimated 80.7% of urgent care centers also provide care for bone fractures, splinting procedures, and more. Finally, urgent care centers are significantly cheaper than the cost of emergency room care, typically charging a co-pay similar to what a doctor would charge. For these reasons, the average urgent care center in the U.S. gets anywhere between 300 to 400 visits a week, while 24 hour urgent care clinics may get more.
Urgent care clinics may be a fairly recent addition to the American healthcare industry, but it is also thriving: a report from the Urgent Care Association of America shows that an estimated 55% of urgent care facilities in the U.S. have been in business 5 years or longer. You may soon notice them everywhere: in medical plazas, retails, even as free standing buildings. So, the next time you or a loved one experiences a non-critical medical problem, don’t wait for a doctor’s appointment or rush to the emergency room: instead, visit your local urgent care center.
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