People are increasingly relying on urgent care centers and other walk-in clinics to treat their minor health problems and injuries. In this trend, Americans prefer to visit an urgent care center over waiting days for an appointment with their physician or waiting hours in the ER. These new-style centers are changing the way health care in the US is organized and making a difference to the lives of many people.
The trend to urgent care center visits has been taken to such an extreme that there are now urgent care franchises, along the lines of Subway or MacDonald’s franchises. Doctors and business people in charge of these franchises want to change the way the public accesses health care. They prefer that Americans always visit an urgent care center, when their ailment is not life-threatening, over the ER or the doctor.
This trend also changes the way health care is financed. It is cheaper to treat patients at an urgent care center than it is at an ER. Billions could be saved in health care bills. More and more people are concerned about the cost to the economy of health care, so this trend could have political ramifications.
For people with a medical complaint, time-saving measures and a lower cost are very important. People have limited access to doctors’ clinics when waiting lists are long, and it is not appropriate to visit the ER with a non life-threatening condition. Therefore, there is a middle ground that exists where urgent care is required but the condition is not a medical emergency. Urgent care clinics are different to walk-in centers located in retail stores – urgent care clinics are usually staffed with doctors rather than nurse practitioners, and walk-in centers are most used for treating minor complaints such as the flu, sunburn or a sprained wrist.