Over the past few decades there have been a growing number of medical walk in clinics emerging across the country. These facilities exist alongside of primary medical providers and hospitals yet may offer several distinctive advantages over traditional American healthcare institutions. While many are rightfully skeptical regarding what urgent care centers can offer the pubic, here are some facts that may help dispel uncertainty and lead to a better understanding of the role played by urgent care in today’s healthcare system.
There are few primary care providers that offer after-hours coverage; this used to mean that if one was ill they either had to wait until their doctor’s office opened (provided they could get an appointment) or head on into the emergency room. A study from 2003 to 2009 actually saw that the mean wait time for emergency rooms across the U.S. increased by 25% from 46.5 minutes to 58.1 minutes. Urgent care facilities seek to fill this gap by offering extended hours and shorter wait times. A majority of patients that go to walk in health clinics have an average wait time of less than 15 minutes with most visits completing within an hour.
Over the past few years the internet has done wonders to expose the ridiculous profiteering of hospitals. Overcharged patients have posted photographs of their hospital expenses on the web for all to see the $15 they were charged per aspirin, the $8 they were charged for a box of tissues, and the $20 they were charged for each use of the hospital’s blood pressure cuff. With so many inflated expenses, it is no wonder that many Americans are looking for an alternative to the average emergency room trip’s cost of $1,318 as of 2009. In contrast, urgent care facilities offer the same degree of care at a fraction of the price with the average visit costing just $155.
Professional, Quality Care
The reason that urgent care centers are able to offer faster, cheaper care is due to the fact that a majority of these centers were founded by physicians who (like many) got fed up with the American healthcare system placing profits over patients. Most urgent care centers have a physician staffed at all times and can offer both fracture care and the administration of intravenous fluids as needed. A number of urgent care facilities double as STD testing clinics; these STD testing clinics offer secure, affordable, and accurate testing. As an alternative to STD testing clinics, there are kits for STD testing at home where individuals can simply mail their test into a lab — many people prefer this as there is more privacy and anonymity than at a clinic. Most urgent care centers are also able to prescribe medication including painkillers and antibiotics to patients in need. So while urgent care centers are certainly a deviation from what we could call traditional American healthcare, it just goes to show that change might not be that bad after all.