Urgent Care — The Secret Medical Gem You Should Know About
Have you had a nightmarish experience in an emergency room when you’ve been there for a semi-serious, but not life threatening medical event? Did you feel rushed and overcrowded and experience a long wait time? Emergency rooms are notoriously overcrowded and in many cases, filled with patients who don’t necessarily need to be there. More people should take advantage of urgent care services, which are often more numerous in one area, less expensive than an emergency visit, and can take care of a surprisingly wide amount of ailments. They can treat everything from minor injuries and illnesses to handling broken bones or sprains. The staff at urgent care centers also are highly qualified and are often owned by a physician or group of physicians. Indeed, about half of urgent care centers are physician owned.
Tell Me a Little Bit About Urgent Care Services
Approximately 20,000 physicians work in urgent care medicine and that number is projected to increase with time. There are over 9,000 urgent care centers in the United States that accept walk-ins and aren’t affiliated with a medical center, but are independent, stand-alone medical centers for the people. Additionally, around 50-100 new centers open every year. The Urgent Care of Association reported that urgent care centers treated an average of 350 people weekly in 2011 and had around 30 new patients a month. Around one in five urgent care centers actually have over 450 patients visit every week.
Why Are Urgent Care Services So Great?
Less of a Wait Time
The Urgent Care Association of America reports in a survey that around 60% of patients only wait 15 minutes or less to be seen by a physician or mid-level provider and around 80% of visits are an hour or less. Around 65% of urgent care centers have a physician in-house all the time.
Over 65% of urgent care centers open before 9 am during the work week and over 45% do so on Saturday and over 30% do on Sundays. In addition to opening earlier, most centers stay open until 7 pm or even later on weeknights (over 90%) and two out of five stay open until 9 pm or even later.
Broad Range of Care
Around 70% of urgent care centers can provide intravenous fluids if those are deemed necessary. Additionally, 80% of urgent cares offer fracture care. X-rays can be done at some centers and a bad case of the flu, rashes, minor sprains, and other ailments that can’t be treated at home can be treated at an urgent care center. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reported that just under half of ER patients who weren’t sick enough to be in the hospital had gone to the ER because their doctors’ office was closed. Imagine if they sought help at an urgent care center who could easily treat them and send them home!
Visiting urgent care is significantly cheaper than visiting the emergency room. As an example, a case that could have been treated either in the ER or at urgent care could be about $2,000 at the ER, versus $200 at urgent care. However, you’re not sacrificing quality for the lower cost. Around 40% of urgent care centers use an electronic prescription ordering system and many more use a sophisticated computerized system to check out lab and imaging results, gathering patient demographics, handling billing, coding conditions and procedures, and making clinical notes. Prescriptions can be given at urgent care centers as well, so they can fulfill most functions that your regular doctor might.
If more people utilized urgent care services and visited urgent care centers in place of the emergency room, everyone would be happier. Patients could be seen in a reasonable amount of time and ER doctors wouldn’t be so overworked. They would also see a decrease in that medical bill — and most urgent care centers do take insurance! Find out if there’s an urgent care center near you and keep it in mind next time you have a non life-threatening medical emergency. It’s a good alternative to know about!