Urgent care centers (Illinois law mandates that they be called immediate or convenient care centers) are gaining ground nationwide as an alternative for families with minor medical emergencies that require quick treatment. Although the walk-in clinic concept has been around for more than 20 years, the trend is picking up steam in an increasingly cost-conscious healthcare environment. Approximately 8,000 such facilities currently are open for business in the United States.
A 2008 survey by the Urgent Care Association of America found that most centers are owned by physicians, and approximately 15 percent are hospital affiliated. More than 55 percent are located in suburbs, where well-off patients with private insurance are unwilling to spend hours waiting in an emergency room. The survey found that of an average of five employees, 1.7 are physicians; 0.4 are nurse practitioners; 0.7 are registered nurses; and 2.3 are clinical staff or medical assistants. Sixty percent of patients are seen by a physician, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant in just 30 minutes.
Alter+Care sees immediate care centers as a great fit with Alter+Care’s Healthcare Village concept (our concept of a wellness/preventive-focused outpatient campus, see www.healthcarevillage.net, because the village becomes a healthcare destination while generating visibility and visits for all services located in the village such as diagnostics/imaging, specialty clinics, physician practices, retail healthcare, laboratory and the wellness center. For patients, the centers provide easy access and reasonably priced care because they typically charge far less than an emergency room visit. Insurers who want to control costs are encouraging people to use urgent care facilities as an alternative, especially during after hours and on weekends.