Are Urgent Care Centers The Next Gold Rush?

Are Urgent Care Centers The Next Gold Rush?

Consumers who are looking to avoid long emergency room waits along with more convenient evening and weekend hours are driving the growth of many urgent care centers — referred to by some as “doc-in-a-box” locations according to a recent report by the Washington Post.

The Urgent Care Association of America cites that an estimated 3 million patients visit these centers each week. The number of facilities have increased from 8,300 to 9,300 since 2008 – sending a clear signal that business is booming in the perceived urgent care gold rush.

“I have a doctor, and my kids’ pediatricians are great, but we’d prefer not to have the long wait in the office. So we come here and everything seems so much faster,” a 36-year-old patient told the Washington Post, after having a doctor remove the stitches he had put in her foot after a weekend boating accident.

But some physicians groups have voiced their concerns that “overreliance on the centers can complicate efforts to improve health through better coordination of care”.

“Family doctors take a more holistic view of a person,” said Glen Stream, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “If a teenager comes in with lacerations, for instance, a family doctor might broach the subject of alcohol or drug use. Similarly, a series of seemingly minor illnesses might indicate a larger, less obvious problem.”

With the lower costs of urgent care drawing attention from insurers, many have added urgent care centers to their provider networks, citing a study that found “almost one in five visits to hospital emergency rooms could be treated at urgent care centers, potentially saving $4.4 billion annually in health-care costs.”

Ultimately, convenient access and saving time are major selling points for patients — with approximately 80% of all urgent care visits being 60 minutes or less.

Read the entire Washington Post article.