Walk in Clinics can Be Good Alternatives to ER Visits

After hours urgent care

Fewer doctors going into primary care combined with millions more people getting health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act has led to a shortage of doctors to provide basic care to people — everything from vaccinations to routine appointments. According to data, the U.S. is likely to be short more than 50,000 primary care doctors in less than a decade unless things change. In the short term, that gap has been filled by urgent care facilities.

The shortage of primary care doctors is only one of the forces driving the increase in the number of walk in health clinic locations. Both the cost and wait times at emergency rooms are leading more people to seek an alternative when they need emergent care. Waits in ERs have grown from 45 minutes to nearly an hour on average, while the average cost of a visit has risen to above $1,300. Because of those costs, many insurance companies have started to put limits on emergency room care. Many plans now charge extra fees for using the emergency room, especially if you have a mild illness or injury and are not admitted.

Though many people who go to the ER for minor issues do so because they have no health insurance, others do so because there is no alternative. That’s where an emergency walk in clinic can fill a gap. Nearly all such facilities stay open later than 5 p.m., which is the traditional time most doctor’s offices close, and many are open on the weekends. Those hours provide a valuable alternative to someone needing a health clinic for children.

The ACA also has played a role in the increase in emergent care facilities. The law has given many millions of people health insurance, and they are looking for opportunities to take advantage. Without enough primary care physicians around to fill the need, a medical walk in clinic is a good alternative. Such facilities can act as a health clinic for children, providing physicals, vaccinations and other services. They also can provide the same services to adults, along with other things such as STD testing, cancer screenings and the like.

Overall, an urgent care facility can be a good alternative to visiting the ER as well as way to see a primary care physician when going to the doctor’s office isn’t an option.

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