Growing Urgent Care Market Offers More Access to Healthcare
How do urgent care centers fit into the new health care regime? One word sums up the advantage of using this service – accessibility. It is the medical option of choice for healthcare consumers that don’t want to spend weeks waiting to see a primary care physician, but that also don’t like the idea of going to the hospital. Examine some of the key reasons why the urgent care market is improving a patient’s access to medical services.
Frustration with the Current Healthcare Model
That is why doctors got into the retail health business in the first place, according to Dr. Ned Shami, CEO of City MD. Urgent care centers focus on episodic treatments, as opposed to primary care that deals with long term solutions. When a person falls and sprains an ankle, they head to an urgent care center for assessment instead of the emergency room. It’s a choice that saves them hours sitting in a waiting room.
Should a patient have a medical emergency, the staff at the center has the equipment and knowledge to provide interim care while arraigning for transport to a larger medical facility.
Turning Healthcare into a Retail Business
It started with urgent care centers – facilities you could go to for immediate medical treatment for non-emergent problems such as a sprained ankle. These centers have been around since the 1970s. Initially, many were run by ER doctors looking to offer patients an alternative to the emergency room.
This urgent treatment concept has expanded over the last few years to include retail clinics and boutique offices. Same basic model, but the retail clinic is a low-cost alternative for those who need medical care just as a matter of convenience. Patients go to retail clinics for a flu shot, a UTI or a minor ear ache without paying the prices found at a traditional care center.
Reducing the Healthcare Burden
Care centers, whether urgent or retail, are picking up the slack for the medical community. They reduce the burden on emergency departments and provide assessment and treatment options after hours for primary care doctors.
One study suggests that adults under the age of 30 are more likely to get medical treatment if they can go to walk-in clinic. The number of people seeking care at a facility they can just walk in to is up by seven percent in just five years.
There are limitations, however. A person going to a clinic must have either cash or acceptable insurance. Some of the boutique offices will not take Medicaid or Medicare. Urgent care clients have no obligation to treat indigent individuals that walk through their door.
The plus side is treatments are affordable. In some cases, retail clinics offer a flat fee for service. When you go to the clinic, you know up front you will pay 40 dollars per visit, for example.
Urgent care is a concept that works in this fast paced world. Clinics improve the options available for health care services. That means more people are going to the doctor for wellness care, preventative treatments and early diagnosis of major or chronic illnesses. That is an improvement over the healthcare model from even 10 years ago.