According to a Wall Street Journal article, urgent care centers are becoming Americans medical home away from home – mainly evenings and weekends when their primary care providers are not available. About two-thirds of patients at urgent care centers have a family physician.
There are an estimated 10,000 urgent care centers in the United States and another 1,400 are expected by 2020. Increasingly, traditional providers are getting in on the act. Hospitals are building, acquiring or partnering with urgent care providers. Walk-in patients are welcome, although many allow patients to make an appointment. Wait times are 30 minutes or less whereas a wait in the emergency room can run eight times that length. The average cost at an urgent care center is about $150, compared to $1,354 for an emergency room visit. Centers are usually open evenings and weekends when doctors’ offices are closed.
When a retail clinic won’t do, this sounds like a much better solution that non-emergent ER visits or waiting a week for a physician visit. It would be even better if these facilities were integrated so you could choose the level of provider (and price level) you need. As one of the commenters said in the WSJ article, why doesn’t every hospital have one of these next to the emergency room? I’d go even farther; why doesn’t every hospital have one of these with a retail clinic inside next to the ER?