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In years past, healthcare options were limited to specialist practices, family physicians, and emergency rooms. Options were often severely restricted depending upon location, with most of the existing medical facilities only offering limited hours or subjecting patients to long wait times if they ended up sick or injured after normal business hours and were forced to head to the ER. While the healthcare system is still adapting to recent changes, trends in healthcare are beginning to shift to favor the inclusion of urgent care facilities as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. As the demand for more affordable healthcare options and better options in general has grown, urgent care clinics have seemingly cropped up overnight to help mediate this crisis. Furthermore, patients are seeking options that fit their lifestyle. No longer is the public satisfied with the constraints that traditional doctor's offices put on scheduling or with cut and dried options in general. Urgent cares have been successfully utilized to fill in the gap, offering an alternative to costly ER visits, scheduling conflicts, time constraints, and the limited availability of traditional family physicians. As such, the booming industry of urgent care centers is unlikely to show signs of slowing down anytime soon. Continue reading to learn more about urgent care centers, why they are expanding so rapidly, and why they are such a beneficial part of modern healthcare.

What Is an Urgent Care Center? 

An urgent care facility (also known as a walk-in clinic) is a medical office that provides primary care services without the need for an appointment. These facilities typically offer a wide range of services including physicals, vaccinations, lab work, x-rays, prescriptions, minor surgeries, and even some types of dental procedures. The most common reasons people visit these facilities include flu shots, sore throats, colds, coughs, fevers, injuries, broken bones, cuts, scrapes, sprains, burns, and other ailments. They also provide a convenient option for those who want to avoid having to make an appointment with a doctor but do not want to go through the hassle of waiting at a hospital emergency room. There are many different types of urgent care centers available today. Some specialize in one particular type of service while others provide a large range of services. Today, urgent care centers can be found in nearly every major city across America. Most urgent care centers will require you to keep a method of payment on file. This may vary depending on what type of insurance you carry. If you have no insurance coverage, it is likely that you will be asked to pay out of pocket before being seen by a provider. Different urgent care facilities accept different types of insurance; some even accept Medicaid and Medicare. For the most accurate information regarding cost and accepted forms of insurance, contact your local urgent care provider.

Types of Urgent Care Facilities

There are two main categories of urgent care facilities: freestanding and group practice. Freestanding clinics are independent businesses that operate independently of any other health care organization. Group practices are owned by larger organizations such as hospitals or physician groups. Both types of facilities offer similar services, however, they do have significant differences.

  • Freestanding Clinics- A freestanding urgent care center is usually located in a retail space similar to a grocery store, pharmacy, or gas station. Since they are not part of a larger organization, they must maintain their own staff and equipment. In order to attract patients, they often advertise heavily in local newspapers and on television stations. This type of facility is ideal for those who don't want to spend extended time traveling to a hospital or family physician office. These practices were some of the first urgent care facilities to appear on the scene and have greatly helped bridge the gap for those who live far away from their family doctor. These types of clinics have assisted in reducing disparities in the availability of care for those living in rural areas.
  • Group Practices- A group practice is owned by a larger organization, typically a hospital or medical group. These facilities are generally located within a hospital or medical building but may be in separate buildings. Their primary goal is to provide quality healthcare to their community while maintaining high patient satisfaction rates. They are staffed by physicians, nurses, and support personnel who are employed by the larger organization. Group practices are great for those who prefer the convenience of a singular location for all their healthcare needs.

Why Do People Visit Urgent Care Facilities?

The main reason people visit urgent care facilities is because they are able to get immediate attention from qualified providers. Unlike hospitals, which tend to focus on complex cases that require extensive testing and treatments, urgent care facilities are designed to treat simple illnesses and injuries. Thus, since they are less concerned with emergencies or chronic long-term conditions, they are able to see patients faster than traditional doctors' offices or ER's. Additionally, since they are open during regular business hours, as well as in the evenings and on weekends, they are much easier to access than traditional doctors' offices offering unmatched convenience for those who work during the day or who begin feeling sick in the evening or on the weekend. The modern world has largely bred an instant gratification society; henceforth, the convenience offered by urgent care facilities makes it unlikely they will disappear, anytime soon. Simply put, people love the ability to have more options, convenience, shorter wait times, and more diverse hours of service when it comes to their medical care.

Additional Benefits

In addition to the convenience provided by these facilities’ extended hours and walk-in appointments, another reason to love this new approach to healthcare, is their expanded diagnostic and treatment modalities available on site. Hypothetically speaking, if you go to see your family doctor about a broken bone, they will need to refer you to an orthopedic doctor or send you directly to the ER, since they would be unable to run X-rays at their office. Conversely, when you go to an urgent care center about a potential broken bone, many facilities can do an X-ray right there at the clinic and begin the necessary treatment, so you're not stuck in an ER waiting room for hours on the low priority end of triage. With the diverse services offered by urgent care, you can receive non-emergency services onsite more quickly, without visiting multiple practitioners or facilities during the process. Patients continue coming back for this benefit alone. With such a powerful bridge in the gap of comprehensive healthcare, it is little wonder these facilities are exploding in popularity and seemingly popping up all over the country in the blink of an eye.

In conclusion, urgent care centers are here to stay. The benefits they bring to the table far outweigh any drawbacks, and they will only become more popular as time goes on. If you are looking for a convenient option for your health care needs, then urgent care is definitely worth checking out!

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