Ask any U.S. resident about their biggest complaints with health care facilities, and many are sure to mention the same thing: wait times. Whether it’s the wait to get an appointment in a private practitioner’s office or the emergency waiting room, there’s plenty of time spent by those experiencing medical difficulty that’s spent just waiting around for care. In recent years, urgent care facilities have gained popularity, not only because of their reduced wait time but because of their convenient care options. These fairly new additions to the healthcare scene help fill in the gaps for thousands of overwhelmed doctors’ offices and emergency rooms.
What Is Urgent Care?
Medical urgent care locations concentrate on the evaluation and treatment of acutely arising conditions including such ailments as the stomach flu, pink eye, and urinary tract infections. They can prescribe antibiotics, pain medication, and evaluate patient needs in the course of a single visit, ultimately providing a convenient and efficient option for patients suffering from urgent, but non-life-threatening conditions.
What’s the Point?
The major impact of urgent care in the medical community is its ability to decrease emergency room traffic. In the past, those experiencing non life threatening conditions that still required immediate attention, like the stomach flu, had only two options. They could try to make an appointment in a private office where they would often have to wait up to two weeks for a free time slot, or they could go to the emergency room and wait while patients with more urgent conditions were seen. The result was overcrowding in emergency rooms and a number of sick patients who could not receive medical attention.
Urgent cares don’t require appointments, usually have shorter wait times, and are often 24 hour facilities, offering more convenient options. Most accept health insurance plans, and a typical visit is up to 50% less expensive than a trip to the emergency room.
Is It Making a Difference?
Very much so. Urgent care in communities across America has helped to ease the burden on emergency rooms by drawing patients with non life threatening injuries and illnesses. As many as 10% are located in rural areas where patients have limited access to hospitalization. Emergency rooms are more free to devote time and attention to patients with very serious conditions while urgent cares attend to those with less serious medical issues.
Urgent cares aren’t replacing primary physicians, as many urgent cares will encourage patients to follow up with their family doctors. Still, they are giving families more convenient options for care that were unavailable before the appearance of urgent care in America. Continue your research here.