One could argue that the best things in life come in pairs, even if they’re sufficient independently. Eggs and bacon, Batman and Robin, dawn and dusk are popular twosomes, but there’s another that may not come to mind instantly. When it comes to minor injuries and illnesses (a pairing in itself), many people have been led to believe that they must choose either an emergency room or an urgent care center. But with the rise of dual providers, patients now have the flexibility to ‘take out the choose’ and receive care that covers both of those services. Are you in need of treatment, but unsure of how to handle impending costs? Keep reading to learn why this healthcare option is growing in popularity.
- Only the exact services are billed for emergency care. Rather than burden patients and families with excessive costs related to insurance coverage, only specific treatments and services are listed as expenses. The numbers don’t lie: An urgent care-treatable case handled in a hospital emergency room costs an average of $2,039, while the same case treated in an urgent care facility would run approximately $226. Even worse, according to a private study conducted by Milliman, approximately 44-65% of all ER episodes could have been treated in urgent care clinic settings. The study reinforces the dismaying reality: patients are unnecessarily losing money, especially for minor injuries and illnesses, when they could visit a less expensive dual-service care center instead.
- Forget about hours in the waiting room. When there’s an influx of patients at any given point, someone (often a triage nurse) must prioritize who’s seen first. Patients with minor injuries and illnesses take a backseat to others who are in more time-sensitive or severe conditions, and any shortage of staff can aggravate already long wait times. Consequently, it may take hours before a patient is consulted by a doctor. In contrast, roughly 60 percent of all urgent care centers have a wait time of less than 15 minutes to see a physician or mid-level provider, and 65 percent have a physician on-site at all times. As the population continues to grow, so does the necessity for skillful, convenient and affordable care. Americans rely heavily on the 24-hour access to care provided by emergency departments — AD visits have increased by 22% over the past decade.
- There’s an impending shortage of physicians.
As the baby boomer generation reaches the geriatric age range, physicians are becoming high in demand. Unfortunately, the nation will be short more than 90,000 physicians by 2020 and 130,000 physicians by 2025, according to projections by the Association of American Medical Colleges. Factoring in the shortage, the U.S. likely will need almost 52,000 additional primary care physicians by 2025 to meet the country’s health care utilization needs. That’s the conclusion reached by a team of researchers whose work is highlighted in an article titled “Projecting U.S. PrimaryCare Physician Workforce Needs: 2010-2025. It’s easy to see that this ticking clock calls for an efficient allocation of resources, especially in regard to minor illnesses and injuries — and combining forces into hybrid models where possible.
Although it’s important to pursue the best healthcare, it’s also invaluable to recognize when a situation may be alleviated by services that are a convenient quality and cost. For minor illnesses and injuries, in particular, the best urgent care is not necessarily the most costly option.