- $1,500 The amount of money the average emergency room visit costs;
- $150 for urgent care center visits.
- 65% The number of urgent care centers that have at least one licensed physician on premises at all hours of operation;
- 29% The percentage of primary care doctors who offer after-hours services (although it should be noted that these services don’t always include office visits or consultations with an actual doctor).
- 129.8 million The number of emergency room visits in 2010, according to the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey;
- 3 million The estimated number of urgent care center visits per year.
These statistics are, by no means, a completely thorough comparison of hospitals and urgent care centers; nevertheless, they do offer readers a small look at why urgent care centers are becoming so popular, not only just in the U.S., but around the world.
First, many Americans — especially those with limited insurance flexibility — are finding that even small emergency room visits can be expensive. Urgent care clinics may not always be cheaper than regular primary physician visits, but they certainly are much cheaper than the ER.
Second, the convenience of walk in medical clinics is just as big of a draw — if not more so — than the price of a visit. The majority of primary physicians don’t offer after-hours care, and even offices that do provide extra care will sometimes offer patients the ability to talk with a nurse on the phone or schedule a visit with a nurse practitioner. This can be frustrating for patients who don’t want to make a hospital trip, but still have a medical condition that needs treatment.
Third, more and more people are becoming frustrated with low staffing in hospitals and extremely long wait times. The lack of after-hours care at normal practices leaves many people with no other option than to go to the ER — not because they have a life-threatening emergency, but because they need to receive medical treatment. Unfortunately, this not only costs big bucks for patients with simple problems, but it also drives up the wait time in the ER. Urgent care facilities are well-known to treat patients almost immediately upon arrival, and many centers state that the majority of patients are seen by a medical professional within 15 minutes of arrival. That statistic should look pretty appealing to anyone who has experienced a four-hour-wait in the hospital ER.
Urgent care centers aren’t intended to be substitutes for normal primary care doctors or for serious emergencies that are life-threatening, but these centers are generally very affordable and provide excellent service in emergencies. The best thing to do is to research how close your nearest urgent care center is, and to keep in mind that these centers are great options for minor medical emergencies. Read more about this topic at this link.