With increased demand for quality, affordable, and convenient health care, urgent care centers continue to gain popularity across the United States. Urgent care facilities are perhaps the fastest growing segment in the health care industry today, and account for nearly $14 million in revenue annually in the United States. In fact, there are over 8,000 urgent care centers located across the country, many of which are located in free-standing buildings.
Perhaps one of the main drivers for the surge in urgent care centers is the ever increasing case load of primary care physicians. This leads to difficulty scheduling appointments, longer wait times, and less one-on-one time spent with each patient. In comparison, 57% of patients visiting an urgent care center wait fifteen minutes or less to seen, and about 80% of all urgent care center visits are sixty minutes or less, according to a recent study done by the Urgent Care Association of America. Urgent care centers provide medical care for conditions and illnesses that are not serious enough to warrant an emergency room visit, yet still require immediate medical attention. Urgent care services often include treatment of sprains and strains, fractures, upper respiratory illnesses, gastrointestinal conditions, lacerations, and even concussions. In some areas of the country, many urgent care clinics offer point-of-care prescription dispensing, to ensure patients receiver their medication prior to leaving the center.
Though urgent care centers are an excellent option for those seeking immediate care, following up with your primary care physician is still important. Emergency rooms and urgent care centers focus on treating acute conditions, whereas a primary care physician is more familiar with a patient’s medical history and therefore has greater insight into their overall well being. Some primary care providers may even refer their patients to a specialist, such as a dermatologist, if a specific condition is beyond their realm of practice. For example, if a patient is experiencing chronic allergy symptoms, a physician may then refer their patient to an allergist for further testing and medical care.
Many illnesses can be easily treated, and even cured if detected early. Unfortunately, however, many people have reservations and doubts in regards to visiting a doctor. These fears can often be assuaged by referring family and friends to doctors who patients are already comfortable seeing. People are more likely to visit a doctor who has been referred to them, than if they were to search for one themselves. Though an apple a day may keep the doctor away, it’s important for patients to explore their healthcare options to ensure they are receiving the best care possible for their medical needs.
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