Are Urgent Care Centers Helping Local Hospitals?

Treatment for earache

Across the United States, urgent care centers are becoming an increasingly popular method of obtaining needed medical care. With 75% of urgent care locations conveniently placed in suburban areas, as well as hundreds of others in rural and urban neighborhoods, urgent care medicine has become a fast and affordable alternative to emergency room. As more and more urgent care clinics have begun offering everything from routine blood work to physical exams and X rays, many patients with non-life-threatening medical problems have begun choosing urgent care facilities over hospitals and local doctors offices. But despite this loss of business, many medical providers are reportedly enthusiastic about this change and the improvements it signals for the healthcare industry.

According to an article from NJ Biz, many hospitals and doctors agree that the increasing number of urgent care locations is not only good for patients, but also good for business. Because an estimated 35% of emergency room visits could have been resolved faster and more affordably at an urgent care center, hospital emergency rooms can now focus on patients with serious medical concerns. This allows them to enter more patients into their system, but in a more efficient way: instead of focusing on sprains, ear infections, and other relatively minor issues, hospitals now have more beds, personnel and resources to dedicate to women given birth, car accidents, and other common but serious problems.

The rise of the urgent care facility is also reportedly helping other healthcare providers manage and direct the increasing number of patients with health insurance, some for the first times in their lives. In many cases, emergency room doctors say that they are seeing patients whose true problem is that they have gone several years without seeing a primary care physician rather than any immediately treatable medical problem. Because urgent care centers often accept health insurance as well, they can help hospitals intercept these patients and redirect them to a local doctors office.

Changes to an established system aren’t always beneficial. However, the increasing number of urgent care locations have repeatedly been shown to help local health care systems better respond to an increasing volume of patients and better utilize their resources. If you have a non-life-threatening medical problem that needs to be treated immediately, consider visiting an urgent care center. Your local medical community might thank you. Learn more about this topic here.

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