Most people would probably agree that they would prefer seeing their own primary care physician rather than going to a hospital emergency room. This is because there are obvious advantages for doing so. In addition to the rapport that can be created with an ongoing relationship, a primary care physician is aware of a patient’s medical history, treatments they have received, and medication needs. Furthermore, an individual’s regular doctor will know when a referral to a specialist is needed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that 48% of adults that were not admitted to the hospital initially went to the emergency room because their primary doctor’s office was closed. Some people, however, may not have a primary care physician. In this case, they may feel that an emergency room visit is their only alternative. However, a local urgent care clinic would be preferable in the absence of a life-threatening accident, condition, or illness.
Approximately half of all urgent care centers are owned and operated by an individual physician or group of physicians. Over half, or 66%, of these centers begin to admit patients before 9:00 a.m. during the traditional work week. Most, however, are open to see patients until 7:00 p.m. or later during weeknights. Others are open on Saturday and Sunday at 45.7% and 31.1% respectively.
There is less waiting time at an urgent care center than at a hospital emergency room. In fact, the Urgent Care Association of American reports that 57% of the patients seen at these facilities may just wait 15 minutes or less to see a doctor, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner.
It’s also important to note that 65% of these urgent care clinics always have a doctor on-site, and approximately 80% of all visits last for up to an hour or less. While the number of patient visits per week does fluctuate, around 1 in 5 see over 450 patients every week.
Around 40% of the urgent care centers that are currently in operation use electronic prescription ordering systems. Even more of these facilities are able to view lab and imaging results with computerized systems and are able to collect patient demographics, process condition and procedure coding, billing, and maintain other data such as clinical notes.
Whether patients need intravenous fluids, have bone fractures, or need a flu vaccination, these are just a few of the urgent care services that can be provided. Visiting an urgent care clinic for a non-emergency medical need is preferable to a long wait in a hospital emergency room. Furthermore, the costs of an emergency room visit are significantly higher than at a local urgent care center.