Are Urgent Care Facilities As Efficient As Emergency Rooms?

walk-in urgent careDuring medical emergencies, accidents, or injuries, it’s normal to seek help at an emergency room. Doctors and nurses in an ER are trained to provide quick service for dire life-threatening situations. What people often forget is that emergency rooms might not be the best places to get care for minor emergencies that are not life-threatening.

Approximately 24 hospitals have shut down in the United States since 2013, but there are about 9,300 walk-in urgent care facilities across the country. This enables potential patients to get quality ER care without the wait. Here are some ways urgent emergency care facilities could assist people who require pediatric care, have minor burns, or who live in rural areas.

In 2014, data showed that 97% of urgent care centers were open 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Patients who required assistance at an urgent care center waited an average of 15 minutes to see a doctor. Doctors in urgent care facilities spent an average of 4.5 hours per patient, though the amount of time spent differs depending on individual cases.

Urgent care is also becoming a growing specialty within the medical field, and currently, there are 20,000 practicing urgent care physicians. A paper titled “Projecting U.S. PrimaryCare Physician Workforce Needs: 2010-2025” explained that the U.S. requires an additional 52,000 additional physicians in order to keep up with the country’s medical needs.

A study conducted by the RAND corporation in 2009 showed that up to 27% of emergency room visits could have been taken care of by urgent care professionals. The same report states that the average reimbursement for emergency room visits is $302, while the average reimbursement for a walk-in urgent care visit was $103 per patient.

Using an urgent care facility could also decrease health care costs by $4.4 billion annually. Board-certified physicians own close to 50% of urgent care facilities. In addition, up to 70% of emergency room visits turned out to be minor injuries such as itchy eyes, wounds, sore throats, or lacerations that could have been prevented with simple outpatient care. The cost of emergency services can be up to $2000 per visit, while the average bill for an urgent care visit is $226 per visit.

Americans resort to emergency room visits often. Despite the usefulness of urgent care centers, there are times when it is appropriate to visit an emergency room. Parents can also benefit by visiting pediatric urgent care centers that will readily provide help for the types of injuries that so often affect children.

The best options for consumers are hybrid walk-in urgent care facilities that double as emergency rooms so that patients can be given the best option. Eliminating the choice can be a crucial life-saving step for patients requiring emergency services who are not trained in how to select a physician.

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