Urgent care facilities were created in hopes to reserve the emergency room setting for those with life-threatening illnesses and/or injuries.
– Quicker access to care for non-life threatening illnesses and/or injuries
– Lower co-payments than a hospital emergency room
– No appointment necessary
– Extended hours
– Open most holidays and weekends
– Usually located in more residential areas
When to use an urgent care facility:
– As an alternative to the emergency room for non-emergent conditions
– If you do not have a primary care doctor
– If your primary care doctor is not available or can’t see you when you need immediate care
– If you prefer the convenience of an urgent care facility
– Services offered within a typical Urgent Care facility:
– Evaluation and management of non-emergent illness and injury and work related services
So, how do you know if your symptoms are life threatening enough for the Emergency room?
According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, warning signs of a medical emergency are:
– Fainting or unconsciousness
– Breathing difficulty
– Chest pains that you may think is a heart attack
– Sudden accident with serious injuries
Did you know?
– Did you know that nearly 100 million people who use the E.R. yearly, as many as 60 to 80 percent are for non-emergencies.
– There are currently over 8,500 urgent care practices in the United States.
– The number of urgent care facilities is increasing by about 300 practices per year.
– Nearly 54% or urgent care facilities are owned by physicians themselves.
Urgent care facilities have been proven to be the better choice medically and financially when it comes to non-life threatening illnesses and injuries. Choosing the right level of care is up to you as the patient. You now know there are other options besides the ER when you need access to quick, affordable medical care.
The fact that you don’t need appointments make these centers the best options when you need medical help for non-emergency issues and your PCP is not able to accommodate you in their schedule. Also the wait time at these centers is less when compared to an Emergency Room visit.
Another aspect of Urgent Care Facility that makes it an even more attractive option is its extended timings. These centers are open even after 5 PM. The offices of the PCPs generally follow normal business hours but these centers are usually open till 8 or 9 PM. They are open 365 days a year – even on weekends and holidays, which is very useful as the doctors’ offices are closed during these days. These factors make Urgent Care Clinics a viable option when you need medical help at these odd hours or when you are out of town and cannot reach your PCP. For example, if you developed a bad earache over the weekend, you could head to the nearest urgent care facility to get it checked.
A visit to an Urgent Care Clinic costs less than an ER visit. CDC estimated that the Emergency department has about 31.64 million non-emergency visits per year. With these numbers, about 7.22 ‐ 18.45 billion dollars can be saved annually by choosing UCCs over ERs for non-ER visits.
Most insurance companies cover the visit to Urgent Cares. They are encouraging the use of Urgent Cares by setting the co-pays for urgent care centers lower than that required for ER visits if you are not admitted to the hospital. This benefits the patient and the insurer – reduces the wait time for the patient and reduces the insurer’s cost.
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.
Many Urgent Care centers are now seeking Urgent Care Center Accreditation. Accreditation is a voluntary process through which an Urgent Care center is able to measure the quality of its services and performance against nationally recognized standards. The Accreditation certificate is a symbol to others that an organization is committed to providing high-quality care. Urgent care organizations value Accreditation as a measure of professional achievement and quality of care. Urgent Care Center Accreditation is a benchmark of quality, not only to those involved in the health care industry but to the general public as well. Accreditation enhances the appeal of an Urgent Care center to payors and employers, and attracts the best providers who are eager to practice at a superior Urgent Care center.
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. 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. And patients can often see a doctor, as opposed to a nurse practitioner if they go to a retail clinic. 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.
There are currently 20,000 physicians who practice Urgent Care Medicine today, and the number is growing. Urgent Care professionals have developed Urgent Care Medicine into an important, recognized specialty that represents this fast-growing medical field.
So, what does the future hold for the specialty of Urgent Care Medicine?
Physicians training in primary care specialties such as Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics are pursuing additional education in Urgent Care Medicine, and seasoned physicians are becoming Board Certification in Urgent Care Medicine. As the specialty grows, the development of training programs geared specifically towards Urgent Care Medicine will take place.
Increased recognition of Urgent Care Medicine as a distinct specialty. Many organizations and facilities accept and recognize Board Certification in Urgent Care Medicine and have requested verification of the Board Certification of our Diplomates.
Because of the excellence of AAUCM Accreditation standards, many third-party payers, commercial insurance carriers, and local and state agencies recognize Urgent Care Center Accreditation with the AAUCM as a valuable accomplishment. The Academy’s UCCA program is accepted by Aetna and Cigna, and United Healthcare recommends Accreditation with the AAUCM to facilities which are contracting with them.
Physicians, Physician Assistants, and Nurse Practitioners who specialize in Urgent Care Medicine will continue to elevate the quality and capability of the “walk-in clinic” to include treatment of a full range of non-emergency illnesses and injuries.
The U.S. likely will need almost 52,000 additional primary care physicians by 2025 to meet the country's health care utilization needs. That's the conclusion reached by a team of researchers whose work is highlighted in an article titled "Projecting U.S. PrimaryCare Physician Workforce Needs: 2010-2025".