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Urgent Care Centers

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There has been growing trend in healthcare facilities in the last few decades and these are ambulatory healthcare facilities, also known as Urgent Care Centers. Urgent Care is the delivery of

Ambulatory Care in a facility dedicated to the delivery of medical care outside of a hospital emergency department, usually on an unscheduled, walk-in basis. Urgent care centers are primarily used to treat patients who have an injury or illness that requires immediate care but is not serious enough to warrant a trip to an emergency room (Wikipedia).

Some of the most common illnesses treated are fevers, upper respiratory infections, sore throats, ear infections, sprains and strains, lacerations, contusions, and back pain. Most centers also treat fractures, can provide IV fluids, and have x-ray and lab processing on site. They are typically staffed with physicians, and may have physician assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners, medical assistants and radiology technicians working with patients (ucaoa).

Urgent care centers are usually located in freestanding buildings, and the majority of centers are independently owned by physicians or groups of physicians. About 25 percent are owned by a

hospital system and most of those are located off the main hospital campus.

The initial urgent care centers opened in the 1970's. Some people also referred to these centers as Doc in the Boxes. Since then this sector of the health care industry has rapidly expanded to approximately 10,000 centers. Many of these centers have been started by emergency room physicians who have responded to the public need for easy access to unscheduled medical care. Much of the growth of these centers has been fueled by the significant savings that urgent care centers provide over the rising cost of treatment in a hospital emergency room (Wikipedia).

The centers are open seven days a week, 365 days a year with hours that extend beyond those of most physicians' offices. Most are open from 8 a. m. to 8 p. m. or 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Weekend hours are usually shorter. No appointment is needed.

Most accept major health insurance plans as well as people who have no health insurance, provided they can pay. Visits typically cost $95 to $130, urgent care centers say. Most carry common antibiotics and other medications and fill prescriptions on site that they prescribe for $5 to $15 (Salisbury, 2010).

Generally, urgent care is for common medical conditions only. Symptoms that warrant a visit to the ER include uncontrolled bleeding, changes in vision or speech, difficulty breathing, fainting, sudden dizziness, changes in mental status, severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea, and pain or pressure in the chest or upper abdomen, according to materials on the topic prepared by Edward Hospital in Naperville, Illinois (Graham and Healy, 2009).

Most people go to urgent care centers because they are not sick enough for an ER visit nor do they want to wait for hours in ER. A lot of people go to these centers because they do not want to wait a week or longer to see their primary care doctor.

Urgent care centers treat all ages of people from infants to seniors. Some are more like a family practice doctor. Several people use these centers as such. They will make repeat visits there and many centers know these patients better than their own doctors.

In Illinois and most states, urgent care centers are not overseen by the Department of Health or other state agencies. Some centers have sought out accreditation, a mark of professional approval, but many haven't. Patients would be well advised to check out in advance the scope of a center's services, the credentials of its staff and the hours of operation.

The Urgent Care Association of America established criteria for urgent care centers in April 2009-The Certified Urgent Care Center designation. These criteria define scope of service, hours of operation, and staffing requirements (Wikipedia).

In 2006, the Urgent Care association of America sponsored the first fellowship training program in urgent care medicine. Physicians in the urgent care fellowship program receive training in the many disciplines that an urgent care physician needs to master. These disciplines include adult emergencies, pediatric emergencies, wound and injury evaluation and treatment, occupational medicine, urgent care procedures, and business aspects of the urgent care center.

Some advantages of using an urgent care center are most insurance companies list urgent care centers where individuals under the plan would be covered. Emergency room treatments are far more expensive than an urgent care center. The insurance co-pay is higher in an emergency room. There is no need to make an appointment. The wait time is a lot less at an urgent care center than at an emergency room. There are usually more urgent care centers in a given area than hospitals. An urgent care center tends to see patients on a first come first serve basis, while an emergency room is based on who is the most sick or the severity of an injury.

Some disadvantages of urgent care centers are most are not open 24 hours, while an emergency room at a hospital is. Urgent care centers doctors will basically treat what they see and release the patient. Emergency room doctors are more specialists who want to make a diagnose and make sure patients are well or feeling better before discharging them even if that means an extended stay in the hospital. Urgent care center doctors who cannot handle a particular case will end up sending that patient to the hospital, especially if the illness or injury is life threatening. Urgent care centers are not set up to do extra tests such as cat scans or an MRI. Emergency rooms can perform these tests promptly.

Growing demand for convenient urgent care and after hours medical services strains hospital emergency departments and has created opportunities for urgent care centers operated by hospitals and medical groups



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