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The Growing Field of Urgent Care Medicine and the Benefits of Visiting an Urgent Care Medical Center

Pediatric urgent care frisco

The United States is in need of more physicians, particularly those that want to practice family and urgent care medicine. In 2008, for example, 1,172 medical school seniors chose family medicine as their specialty. By the next year, however, just 1,083 seniors chose this specialty. The Association of American Medical Colleges reported that by 2020, the United States will be in need of over 90,000 physicians. By 2025, it is projected that 130,000 more physicians will be needed. When considering that over two dozen rural hospitals have closed since 2013, these individuals and their families along with others throughout the country will have reduced access to quality medical care.

The article, “Projecting U.S. Primary Care Physician Workforce Needs: 2010-2025” highlights the conclusions drawn by a team of researchers. They predicted that by 2025, the United States will specifically need an additional 52,000 more primary care physicians. Americans tend to rely on the over-burdened hospital emergency room system to provide them with 24-hour medical care. It therefore makes sense to provide increased access to qualified physicians in an alternate venue.

A welcome alternative to providing skilled care is combined emergency room and urgent care medical center. Currently, there are 20,000 physicians practicing urgent care medicine. Fortunately, this a fast-growing medical field and is recognized as an important specialty. There are roughly 9,300 stand-alone medical centers that provide walk-in care. On a yearly basis, another 50 to 100 of these clinics are being opened. Their numbers do fluctuate, however, due to corporate buy-overs, expansions, and consolidations. Most of these centers are owned and operated by a group of physicians or by a single physician.

In 2011, for example, 342 patients were seen every week at the average urgent care center. The Urgent Care Association of America also indicates that these centers experienced a monthly increase of 28 additional patients. Since that time, even more Americans are choosing to utilize the services of these medical facilities.

There are many benefits, including convenience, that are associated with visiting an urgent care center. At approximately 60% of these facilities, patients only have to wait up to 15 minutes to see a physician or a physician’s assistant. Furthermore, 65% always have a physician on-site. It’s also important to note that it costs less to be treated by an urgent care physician or mid-level provider than by traditional hospital emergency room doctor and staff.

In 2009, the RAND Corporation conducted a study that included a comparison on the costs associated with receiving urgent care services and traditional hospital emergency department services. They reported that 14% to 27% of the emergency room visits could be treated at an urgent care clinic. The annual health cost savings could be up to $4.4 billion.

Given the current need for affordable care, it makes sense for Americans to utilize the services offered by
a hybrid medical center. Since these facilities provide a combination of urgent care and emergency medicine, they are a welcome alternative to traditional hospital emergency room services. Since there is a growing demand for more physicians, it’s hoped that more senior medical students will choose to specialize in this growing and well-respected field of medicine.