The average local urgent care facility welcomes an estimated 342 patients each week in the United States, as reported by the Urgent Care Association of America. Besides being sound health care policy, local urgent care centers have recently helped unburden primary care doctors from the huge caseloads they typically carry. The fact is that at the moment, there just are not enough primary care physicians available to treat all patients needing care. This problem has resulted in long wait times for appointments and a marked decrease in the amount of time a doctor can spend with her patients. Local urgent centers help to fill in this health care gap, and because local urgent care centers accept most forms of health insurance, urgent care visits are not any more costly, and sometimes less so, than primary care offices.
A urgent care movement has been sweeping across the country in the last decade or so. Approximately 55 percent of all local urgent care centers are at least 5 years old, according to the Urgent care Association of America, which also reports that the cities with the most local urgent care facilities are Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami. The types of illnesses typically treated at urgent care centers include, strep throat, influenza, gastrointestinal illness, sprains, broken bones, abrasions, ear infections, and urinary tract infections. Treatment is available on a walk in clinic basis, though some local urgent care centers offer same day appointments by telephone.
The CDC recently concluded that an estimated 50 percent of adult ER patients who were not sick enough to be admitted to the hospital sought treatment at the Emergency Room because their doctors offices were closed. These patients are in fact interfering with the real mission of hospital emergency rooms, which is to treat acute, life threatening medical issues. In 2010, the Rand Corporation reported that an estimated 20 percent of ER visits could have been effectively treated at local urgent care centers. This shift could save $4.4 billion annually in health care costs. Thus, patients with minor health problems should go to local urgent care centers instead of the ER. For more about this, go here.