Urgent Care Centers on the RisePosted by in Urgent Care
According to The Urgent Care Association of America, there are now more than 17,000 urgent care centers in the United States. The National Association For Ambulatory Care (NAFAC) says that urgent care is the fastest growing health care segment. The facilities are offering an alternative to primary care doctors’ offices and hospital emergency rooms.
The first urgent care centers were opened in the 1970s.
What is an Urgent Care Center?
An urgent care center is a medical facility that provides treatment for acute illnesses and injuries that need immediate attention but are not life-threatening or long-term. As a result, emergency room personnel can more often focus on patients with serious or life-threatening illnesses and injuries.
In fact, it is estimated that 40 percent of emergency room visits could be treated at an urgent care center. As more of these centers are developed, emergency rooms across the country should experience less overcrowding.
The Advantages of Urgent Care Centers
For the patient, there are a number of advantages to urgent care:
- Unlike doctor’s offices and departments at medical centers, most urgent care facilities do not require an appointment and are open in the evening and on weekends. Some centers are open all the time – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This allows patients with minor injuries that require a physician’s care or with illnesses that have started or worsened on the weekends to receive attention without visiting a hospital. It also gives patients an opportunity to see a doctor without the necessity of taking time off from work.
- Hospital emergency rooms typically require a longer wait before attention is received, especially when the illness or injury is not a serious, immediate health threat.
- Emergency room visits usually cost more than a visit to an urgent care facility. Insurance companies do not apply as large a co-pay to urgent care visits as emergency room care.
- Urgent care physicians and nurses are fully licensed and as well-trained as hospital personnel.
- X-rays and MRIs can often be performed at urgent care centers.
- Since the care is not meant to be long-term, intake requirements in urgent care facilities are less comprehensive than in primary care offices. At the same time, occasional repeat visits may allow a patient to develop a relationship with an urgent care internist.
There are urgent care centers in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and most other states in the United States.
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