Emergency Care How an ER and Urgent Care Center Help
Breathing difficulties. Chest pain. Fever. Headache. Flu treatment. Lacerations. Itchy eyes. Minor burns or back pain. Minor illnesses. Sore throats. Stomach pain. Wounds. These are some of the illnesses and ailments that are treated in either an urgent care setting or emergency room in a hospital. Here is how to tell which you should see.
Recent research suggests that urgent care centers are growing significantly in popularity every year. There are currently 20,000 physicians that practice Urgent Care Medicine today, and that number is growing. Urgent Care professionals have turned Urgent Care Medicine into an important field of medicine today.
There are now approximately 9,300 urgent care centers in America today, and 50 to 100 new clinics open every year, with the number fluctuating due to corporate consolidations, expansions and buy-overs. It remains a highly fragmented market, with most owners of urgent care centers own and operate fewer than three centers, with no dominant market presence.
It is certainly growing in popularity. In 2011, the average urgent care center saw 342 patients per week, with the average care center seeing 28 more patients per week during that year. It is popular with patients because the opportunity to see a physician without an appointment for serious but not life-threatening ailments is important.
Urgent care centers tend to be open later hours than most physician practices (some open as early as 7am to as late as 7pm), meaning more patients can be seen and hours are more flexible for walk ins. Urgent care centers also tend to remarkably less expensive than emergency rooms, as will be seen at the financial comparison at the end.
Urgent care centers treat injuries and ailments that are not life-threatening but also serious enough to warrant immediate attention, such as lacerations, broken bones, influenza, issues with chronic conditions such as diabetes or hypertension, and more. A physician generally sees around 4.5 patients per hour, depending on severity of the case.
One of the great healthcare treatment opportunities within urgent care centers is the availability of equipment that a primary care physician doesn’t have. This includes MRI machines and x-ray machines, among others. Ailments such as broken bones can be more easily treated in this kind of setting than a primary care office.
The last attractive quality of urgent care centers noted in this section is the wait time: Roughly 65% of urgent care centers have a wait time of 15 minutes or less to see a physician, and 60% of urgent care centers have a physician on-site at all times.
The other option for many patients is the emergency room. Generally, the emergency room is seen as the location to see patients where their conditions are serious enough to be life-threatening, such as a heart attack or sudden diabetes attack or a laceration that is bleeding out.
Unfortunately, that is not often the case. Americans rely heavily on the 24-hour access to care provided by emergency departments, as after dark visits have increased by 22% in the past decade. Also, in a private study conducted by Milliman, 44%-65% of emergency room episodes could have been treated in urgent care settings.
Emergency rooms have likely the best equipment in the area to handle serious, life-threatening issues, with doctors that are likely highly qualified in treating the symptoms of the illness. Unfortunately, they are also expensive. The average bill for a emergency room visit is near $650 dollars, with many reaching into the thousands.
Urgent care centers by comparison tend to run in the low hundreds, if that, and that is typical without insurance. With insurance, urgent care center visits can cost as little as $35, while emergency room visits will cost still hundreds of dollars.
Urgent medical services incorporate both urgent care centers and emergency rooms and in fact there is one group that is pioneering the use of both. Legacy ER is pioneering the full in-house urgent medical services department, where both the ER and the Urgent Care center are in the same building.
This set up allows for urgent medical services to be delivered in the best method and level of care for the patient. The urgent medical services of Legacy ER will likely to be a model to come.