Whenever a medical issue arises, your first impulse may be to call an ambulance or rush to an emergency room for treatment. However, if the medical problem you are having treated is not particularly serious, you may be wasting both time and money: the typical emergency department visit costs, on average, $1,500, and can often take several hours. Even worse, mild injuries and problems will overwhelm hospitals with patients, creating longer wait times for those who require immediate care. This can have an effect on entire communities. For these reasons, if a minor health issue arises that does not require emergency care, it is often better for all parties if the patient visits a community health clinic, like an urgent care center.
Urgent care facilities are a growing factor in the United States healthcare industry, with approximately 129,043 people currently employed by these community health clinics in the U.S. Urgent care centers are designed to provide medical services for conditions that are not serious enough to warrant an emergency room visit, but which require rapid attention, such as broken bones and fractures. These services typically help ease the burden faced by emergency rooms, but also offer a variety of benefits for their patients, including shorter wait times, more convenient hours, and lower fees.
Unlike the average primary care physician’s office, urgent care centers are typically designed to offer services at convenient times, with many functioning as 24 hour walk in clinics or after hours urgent care centers. However, like a physician’s office, these neighborhood health clinics can be trusted to provide reliable care: almost two-thirds of urgent care facilities employ a mix of physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician’s assistants, and 65% of centers have at least one physician on-site at all times. Because of their quality staffing and the fact that they treat relatively minor issues, 57% of patients wait 15 minutes or less to be seen, and around 80% of all visits last an hour or less. And while a visit to the emergency room can cost thousands of dollars, treatment at an urgent care center costs, on average, under $150.
While urgent care centers specialize in evaluating and treating mild conditions, they are increasingly provide an array of other services, including lab services, such as same day STD testing, x rays, and routine physicals. This further reduces wait times at local primary care offices, and benefits the community. So the next time you are in need of non-critical medical services, don’t head to an emergency room or wait to see your doctor; instead, visit your local community health clinic.