The growth and development of Urgent Care Medicine should be of no surprise to anyone. Fueled by frustration over long waits in the emergency room (for non-emergency care), and a reduction in available primary care appointments (often resulting in patients waiting for weeks to see their primary care physician), a new growth spurt for the Urgent Care industry began in the mid-1990s and continues today. Since 2008, the number of facilities has increased from 8,000 to 9,300. The public’s desire for immediate access to medical care has been the driving force behind this monumental growth.
For many patients, Urgent Care centers are the main place to go for care — especially on weekends or evenings when their primary-care physicians don’t have office hours. Only 29% of primary care doctors have after-hours coverage. Urgent Care centers are a boon for patients in other ways. The wait time to see a provider is typically half an hour or less, compared to a multi-hour wait time in many Emergency Departments. Moreover, Urgent Care centers offer imaging and other services not found in retail outlets. Employers, insurers and other payers also benefit from urgent-care centers, which charge only a fraction of what an ED visit would cost. And employees can get back to work sooner instead of spending half the day in the ED.
The extended hours and immediate availability of care at Urgent Care centers provides convenience for patients. As the specialty of Urgent Care Medicine grows, the public is learning that Urgent Care is a better choice over the emergency room for their immediate, non-life-threatening healthcare needs.
This article is an excerpt from aaucm.org (American Academy of Urgent Care Medicine), and is intended for informational purpose only.