For many people, it seems logical that injuries and illnesses should be treated at a hospital or local doctors office. However, a visit to one of these locations may raise questions at the validity of those assumptions: an appointment at a doctor’s office can take weeks to schedule, while long lines and a triage mentality can make emergency room care a long, arduous process. These long waiting periods are due to a number of factors, including the Affordable Care Act, which increased the number of patients who are able to afford proper medical treatment. Many medical providers have yet to adjust to the increased patient volume. And for many employees at these centers, the increased task may be taking a toll on their physical and emotional health.
According to the Royal College of Nursing in the United Kingdom, an increasing number of nurses report feeling stressed and are developing health problems that could be caused by this tension. The college’s study also suggested that this could take a toll on patient care. While the report did not use data from the United States, many American studies have reported similar increases in patient volume, cutbacks, and other issues, resulting in greater stress levels among medical professionals.
In a system rife with problems, one of the best and only ways to help community medical providers, including doctors and nurses, is to redistribute the patient volume. Fortunately, research shows that an estimated 35% of all visits to an emergency room could be better served at an urgent care clinic. Designed to treat non-life-threatening conditions, urgent care centers offer a variety of advantages to their patients: for example, the typical urgent care facility is 40 to 50% less expensive than a trip to the emergency room. Likewise, urgent care hours are famously convenient, with most of these walk in clinics open 7 days a week, sometimes even 24 hours a day. These helpful urgent care hours make it easy to see a doctor whenever medical treatment may be required, and because fewer patients are typically aware of urgent care services, visits are typically quick as well.
There are an estimated 7,164 urgent care centers in the U.S., with many of them located in easily-accessed suburban areas. If patients with non-life-threatening conditions visited these centers instead of emergency rooms, many hospitals could successfully redirect a significant amount of their patient volume and provide better care for more serious problems. Help your community health system today: research the urgent care hours and services available near you. Continue your research here.