According to the Wall Street Journal, many traditional health care providers are becoming increasingly interested in being a part of the urgent care market. Why?
Over the past two years, many well known insurance companies and hospital chains have been quietly buying up urgent care centers as many of these centers go up for sale or look to merge. These big companies are investing in urgent care because all signs point to urgent cares becoming the new standard for basic medical care in America.
The Importance of After Hours Urgent Care
Americans are increasingly reliant on the urgent care system. With busy schedules that often don?t line up with the 9-5 hours many doctors keep, many people are looking for a convenient care option when they have illnesses or injuries that are not quite serious enough to require the emergency room. After hours urgent care is often the solution they find.
Doctors often are booked weeks in advance, making it hard to see them on short notice — and emergency rooms are not only expensive, but tend to forestall treatment for issues that are not deadly or life threatening. Urgent care center visits are often about $150 on average — compared to an average bill of $1,400 for an ER, a bill that?s almost 10 times as expensive.
A Booming Industry
The Urgent Care Association of America says there are about 7,000 urgent care centers currently operating in the U.S., and right now, 22% are hospital owned, while another 15% are joint ventures with hospitals. Some estimates, though, say there may be as many as 10,000 urgent care centers (some with varying degrees of service, though).
The New York Times notes that the aging baby boomer population is helping to influence the rise of urgent cares as well. The elderly population has more health concerns in general and wants easy access to health care. Urgent care walk in health clinics offer the assistance they need for ongoing problems. Medical walk in clinics typically have trained nurses, as well as doctors, on site to answer questions.
Finally, urgent care facilities often help fill gaps in care that would otherwise exist. Many young people are interested in accessing STD testing centers, yet these are sometimes few and far between as more stresses are placed on institutions like Planned Parenthood. In many rural locations, a loss of facilities like Planned Parenthood has been linked to outbreaks in STD infections as people lose a valuable way to get tested. Thankfully, urgent cares often offer fast STD testing to their patients.
Will you be visiting an after hours urgent care anytime soon? It’s clear to see that the benefits are numerous, and both patients and hospitals are looking to urgent cares as part of the future of the American healthcare system.