The primary reason urgent care centers started gaining popularity in the mid 1990s is most likely due to a need in the healthcare industry. Long waits in doctors offices and hospitals became common occurrences, and the costs for those services seemed to increase by the day. As a result, according to a new report by the American Academy of Urgent Care, what started as a stop-gap type trend has grown into an almost entirely new industry all by itself.
The Press of Atlantic City reports that the number of urgent care facilities has risen from about 8,000 in 2008 to over 9,300 today. One of the biggest reasons attributed to this growth is simply the fact that the majority of these centers offer quality service at an affordable cost.
Mike Mays, 33, is a father living in Egg Harbor Township, NJ, who has been using urgent care clinics for his family’s needs for awhile now.
“I have four children, so we are constantly in and out of this urgent care,” Mays told the Press of Atlantic City. He added that his daughter “wants to come here over the hospital. As far as my insurance is concerned, urgent care is a $5 copay, while the emergency room is a $50 copay.”
Just 3% of patients who come to an urgent care center need to be diverted to an emergency department.
The phenomenon has surely relieved some of the burden from hospitals and doctors offices, which allows for more time and attention for the serious cases that do require those kinds of services.
It’s also no surprise that the most recent surge in popularity corresponds with the Millennial generation, who are seeking places to get treatment outside of their parents insurance coverage for the first time.
“We’ve seen continued growth annually,” said Jatin Motiwal, vice president of AtlantiCare Physician Group. “We are seeing the biggest impact with Millennials — they think that they are bulletproof and they don’t want to sit in an emergency room for four hours.”
As opposed to hospitals where patients might wait for hours, 57% of patients wait 15 minutes or less to be seen by urgent care doctors, and about 80% of all urgent care visits are completed in 60 minutes or less, according to the Urgent Care Association of America.
“Urgent care is growing across the country because it provides patients a much-needed option for acute illnesses or injuries that aren’t life-threatening,” said Dr. Robert Kimball, president of the board of directors for the association. “Urgent care serves as a bridge between the emergency room, which can be too costly and time-consuming for common illnesses and non-life threatening episodic events, and primary care physician clinical services.”