Urgent care centers represent one of the fastest growing segments of the American healthcare system as growing consumer demand for quality, affordable, and convenient medical care in a pinch continues to rise. In fact, there are over 8,000 urgent care centers across the United States. This increase has turned urgent care centers into a business in which United States revenue is expected to top $15 billion this year alone. Realizing the potential for significant profits, many investors, hospitals, and entrepreneurial physicians have jumped into the market within the past decade.
Urgent care centers continue to crop up, offering an alternative to the go-to-the-emergency room model by offering shorter wait times, shorter treatment times, and lower costs. In essence, they’re flipping the old hospital model of long, high-margin treatments, and instead profiting from low margins, high traffic, and fast turnaround.
How should patients determine whether they should go to an urgent care center or the emergency room? Knowing the difference between urgent care and emergency room care, and where patients should go for treatment can make a significant difference in how their needs are met. Emergency departments specialize in the initial treatment of acute illnesses and injuries, some of which may be life threatening and require immediate medical attention. If patients feel their life is in danger they should go the emergency room immediately. In comparison, urgent care centers provide medical care for conditions and illnesses that are not severe enough to require an emergency room visit, yet still require immediate attention.
“Urgent centers like ours are staffed with board certified physicians so all of our patients are getting the highest quality of care in a state-of-the-art facility that does not carry the overhead of the emergency room, therefore the cost savings are enormous,” says Alison Hare, Practice Manager at AFC Doctors Express Urgent Care. “We have an on-site digital x-ray, lab services, EKG machine and have the capabilities to treat minor burns, sprains, fevers, and aches. Our patients get many of the perks of the emergency room medicine in the comfort of our beautiful center for less than half the cost.”
By expecting the unexpected in regards to their health and understanding the different health care options available, patients can save time, money and perhaps even their lives.