The Role Urgent Care Centers Continue to Play in the American Healthcare System

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To say that the urgent care sector is booming is a gross understatement. Urgent care services are in high demand as clinics continue to bridge the broad gap between overburdened hospital emergency departments and traditional physician offices. Add to the mix the passing of the Affordable Care Act and the advent of Obamacare, an influx of newly insured patients were finally able to afford medical care and sought out urgent care facilities as their first choice.

Urgent care centers have flown under the radar since the 1980’s. It wasn’t until the 2000’s that retail clinics — once regarded as “Doc in a Box” clinics — started gaining popularity, creating the perfect opportunity for investors to swoop in and offer patients a more convenient and affordable healthcare option. Now, there are an estimated 9,500 urgent care locations in the United States, which generate a whopping $14 billion in revenue annually, easily making it the fastest growing segment in American healthcare.

However, American healthcare is complex. The roles of local urgent care centers have changed as the needs of the American people have changed. Local urgent care centers have now added a plethora of medical services to their repertoire of treatments, with some offering the same if not more treatment options than physician offices. During the height of the Ebola outbreak and after the death of the first Ebola patient to die of the virus in the United States, local urgent care centers in the Dallas area armed themselves to treat patients exhibiting symptoms of the disease, a step that many doctor’s office did not take.

Many patients find that urgent care centers seem more approachable than sterile, spartan emergency rooms. For example, the interior of the new urgent care center on Broadway between 102nd and 103rd in New York City looks more like a day spa than a medical facility, boasting a modern, open floor plan, plush chairs, and contemporary artwork. Even the logo, a green medical cross paired with a smile underneath, offers an inviting sense of calm.

While speculation continues over the role urgent care centers will continue to play in the healthcare industry, one thing remains painfully clear; they’re vital.

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