In case of emergency, we all know what number to call or where to drive to, as fast as possible: 911, and the emergency room. But you’d be surprised how many people there are that don’t go to the emergency room for dramatic accidents. In fact, of the estimated 110 patients who visit urgent care centers or the ER every week, a study by the Rand Corporation found that nearly one in five were not sick enough to be admitted to the hospital, but said that they sought out health care at the ER because their physicians offices were closed.
This is true for many people — only about 29% of primary care doctors have after-hours coverage. When there are no urgent care centers around, or people don’t know about them and the services they offer, they tend to resort to the emergency room, fees for which can be exorbitant.
Getting to know your nearby urgent care centers can be a serious life saver — they are about 6, 800 of them in the U.S., and they tend to employ a mix of nurse practitioners, physicians, and physicians assistants. 65% make sure to have a qualified physician on call at all times.
Urgent care centers are especially good because their staff and functions are designed for high volumes and the need for immediate care. Calling ahead while driving can further prepare them to better accommodate your needs.
The urgent care movement began in the 1970s, and since then has grown exponentially around the globe in response to the need to have somewhere to go that wasn’t quite the hospital. This is especially important for areas where the hospital is too far to travel, or people don’t have the comfort of accessible transportation to get them there.
Not only that, but the urgent care movement could mean a healthier America at large. On average, about 5- 20% of Americans come down with the flu every year, and they get a billion colds a year. About 6.8 million bones are broken each year, and a large amount of people in serious pain and discomfort, not to mention who are contagious, don’t seek health care because they believe that they can’t afford it.