When suffering from an ailment outside of regular doctors’ hours, the standard response in the United States is to go to the emergency room. Still, hospitals across the country are now recommending that people take a serious look at using an urgent care center for many conditions. These centers are not new, but they are growing in popularity at the rate of about 300 new facilities per year. Part of this increase is due to necessity, but urgent care centers also provide patients with several advantages.
Hospitals Pushing Patients to Use Urgent Care Centers
Hospitals do not always have the personnel to staff emergency rooms fully, and many of them are unnecessarily operating at peak capacity, which means long waits for people with non-emergency conditions. Emergency rooms work on the principle of triage, so patients with severe, emergency conditions receive priority treatment. Anyone who has a minor status may have to wait for hours before receiving treatment.
To reduce the workload and segregate medical emergencies from non-emergencies, hospitals across the nation are issuing statements asking patients to reconsider using emergency rooms. Emergency rooms need to reserve their resources for life-threatening illnesses and injuries.
Advantages and Benefits
Urgent care centers first appeared in the 1970s, and over 17,000 centers are currently operating in the United States. The purpose of these centers is to provide patients with round-the-clock medical services for conditions that are not life-threatening but require prompt attention. Such conditions include sprains, minor wounds, and persistent cold symptoms. These facilities are equipped to handle most conditions treatable in primary care, and most have a full-time staff that includes one or more doctors.
Many patients trying care facilities for the first time, end up using them regularly. Most insurance plans cover services at an urgent care center with a copayment that is much less than what is charged for emergency room visits. Other advantages include the following:
- the long lines at emergency rooms.
- These facilities either keep extended hours or stay open 24 hours per day.
- Appointments are not necessary.
- Licensed professionals provide care.
- The services are convenient when away from home.
Emergency rooms have traditionally been used as 24-hour-per-day primary facility by many people, but this causes long wait times and uses valuable emergency resources. Urgent care centers have grown in popularity across the nation for non-emergency conditions, and these centers provide patients with several benefits while filling a critical gap in health care availability.