Nobody has time to wait a few days for an appointment with a primary care physician when they don’t feel good. And nobody has time to sit in the ER for 8 hours just because they can’t get an appointment with their primary care physician. Nor do insurance companies appreciate that sort of thing.
If it’s not a true emergency, you shouldn’t be going to the ER. But if you need to see a doctor today, what else are you supposed to do?
Enter: Urgent Care.
- Headache? Go to Urgent care.
- Flu shot? Urgent care.
- Stitches? Urgent care.
- Broken bone? Urgent care.
- Dehydrated? Urgent care.
- Foot hurts a little? Urgent care.
- Hives? Urgent care.
- Pain? Urgent care.
- Routine physical? Urgent care.
Appointment? You don’t need one, and you probably won’t wait more than 10 minutes.
Insurance? They take it.
Even Medicaid? Yep, they take it.
Co-pay? Much less than the ER. Some people pay nothing. And there are no surprise bills.
Kids? They’ll even see infants.
Basically, urgent care is amazing.
- If it turns out that you should have been in the ER in the first place, they’ll take you by ambulance and you’ll skip triage when you arrive.
- They’ll follow up with you by phone to make sure that you are feeling better and that you’ve picked up any prescribed medications and made appointments with specialists to whom you’ve been referred. If you’re not feeling better, or if you have any questions, the doctor will come on the line to consult with you.
- Can’t find a specialist? They’ll find one for you — AND book the appointment.
- They do most lab work, including radiology, on site. EKGs, too. It’s like a small, quiet emergency room. They upload test results to an online portal, and they call promptly if the results are abnormal.
- They can administer IV medication and most pain medication (while you probably won’t be able to get a morphine drip, you will be able to get a shot of Toradol for severe pain).
- They are always impeccably clean.
It’s a great idea, and somewhere, someone is capitalizing on it.
From a physician’s perspective, it’s a smart choice: there is a high demand for urgent care physicians. The average salary rose $11,000 between 2015 and 2016, and urgent care physicians are now high on the list of recruited specialists. The hours are predictable, and there is a better work-life balance.
From a patient’s perspective, it’s a no-brainer: a visit to urgent care for stitches would cost between $0 and $75 with insurance, or approximately $125 without insurance. A visit to the ER for the same thing could cost thousands. A visit to urgent care would be quick, as opposed to spending a few hours in the ER. And those who are uninsured or underinsured now have access to high-quality medical care for a reasonable rate.
From an insurance company’s perspective, it’s also a no-brainer: necessary services are covered in full, all of the doctors are in-network, and the patient doesn’t rack up a 5-digit ER bill for a minor illness. Claims are smaller, and fewer claims are denied. Fewer patients call to negotiate. Time is saved all around.
From the urgent care center’s perspective, it’s profitable: they are up-front about the cost of service; they know exactly how much they will be reimbursed by insurance companies, and they notify uninsured patients if a test or procedure will cost more than the pre-arranged fee. Usually, though, everything is included.
We’re moving away from emergency rooms and family doctors.
Service on demand. No hidden fees. Insurance companies pay. Doctors work regular hours. Almost any medical situation can be addressed.
In major cities, there are urgent care centers every couple of blocks.
It’s only a matter of time before they pop up in suburban areas.
This is the future of medicine.