By Joseph M. Soler M.D. F.A.C.E.P. –
In a growing trend, more and more patients are turning to urgent care centers for treatment of minor ailments and injuries instead of trying to squeeze in an appointment with a primary care provider or waiting at a crowded emergency room. This shift and the rising prominence of urgent care centers is reshaping the health care model that for decades sent patients to their primary care doctors, and if necessary, the emergency room.
The growth and development of urgent care medicine began in the mid-1990s and not surprisingly it continues today. Frustration over long wait times at the emergency room (for non-emergency care), and a reduction in available primary care appointments (often resulting in patients waiting for weeks to see their primary care physician), has increased the demand for urgent care treatment. The public’s desire for immediate access to medical care has been the driving force behind the monumental growth of urgent care medicine.
For many patients, urgent care centers are the main place to go for care — especially on weekends or evenings when their primary-care physicians don’t have office hours. Urgent Care centers offer several benefits to patients. The wait time to see a provider is typically half an hour or less, compared to a multi-hour wait time in many emergency departments. Moreover, urgent care centers offer imaging and other services not available by some private care offices. Urgent care treatment is only a fraction of the cost of an emergency room visit, which benefits employers, insurers and other payers as well as the patient.
The extended hours and availability of quality care at urgent care centers offers patients a convenience that can’t be denied. As the popularity of urgent care medicine grows, the public is learning that urgent care centers can often be the best choice for their immediate, non-life-threatening healthcare needs.
The number of licensed physicians actively participating in urgent care treatment continues to grow each year. As there are many different types of primary care doctors there are many different types of urgent care centers. Some centers treat only minor concerns relying on the emergency room to manage the more sever conditions. Other urgent care centers, like Pinnacle Urgent Care on 75th Street, are staffed with full time physicians, and offers MRI, CT, x-ray and a host of services to treat more severe issues. Urgent care medicine has become an important, recognized specialty that represents a fast-growing sector in the medical field.
So, what does the future hold for the specialty of Urgent Care Centers?
Expansion. Over 700 new facilities are opening each year. This means increased opportunity for those in need of emergency care for non-life threatening issues, and more opportunity for emergency doctors to start their practice within a very unique model. Convenience leads these centers to be opened in places easily accessed by the public.
The increasing demand of urgent care treatment has forced those in the medical field to recognize it as a distinct specialty. Training programs have been, and are being, developed by hospitals, medical schools and urgent care associations and groups, for those seeking to go into emergency care within the stand alone center. Physicians training in primary care specialties such as Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics are now also pursuing additional training specifically for urgent care medicine. As the specialty grows, the development of training programs geared specifically towards urgent care medicine will take place.
As stated above, urgent care facilities take up the slack that exists because many prospective primary care doctors are pursuing other areas of medicine.
Physicians, Physician Assistants, and Nurse Practitioners who specialize in urgent care medicine will continue to elevate the quality and capability of the “walk-in clinic” to include treatment of a full range of non-emergency illnesses and injuries. The number of urgent care centers will continue to grow as more and more patients seek treatment from them because of the cost savings and convenience.
The conclusion is that urgent care centers aren’t going anywhere and will continue growing as a segment of the medical health care industry. Commonality of service will continue to promote, along with low costs, great care, and a short wait, the future of the urgent care centers.
*Source: American Academy of Urgent Care Medicine
Pinnacle Urgent Care (941) 761-1616 315 75th Street West – Bradenton, FL 34209 Monday-Friday | 7:30am-7pm Saturday, Sunday & Holidays | 7:30am-5pm Closed Thanksgiving & Christmas www.pmgpa.com