Future of Urgent Care

Written by on October 1, 2014 in Features - No comments

The growth and development of Urgent Care Medicine should be of no surprise to anyone. Fueled by frustration over long waits in the emergency room (for non-emergency care), and a reduction in available primary care appointments (often resulting in patients waiting for weeks to see their primary care physician), a new growth spurt for the Urgent Care industry began in the mid-1990s and continues today. Since 2008, the number of facilities has increased from 8,000 to 9,300. The public’s desire for immediate access to medical care has been the driving force behind this monumental growth.

StaffWEBMany Urgent Care centers are now seeking Urgent Care Center Accreditation. Accreditation is a voluntary process through which an Urgent Care center is able to measure the quality of its services and performance against nationally recognized standards. The Accreditation certificate is a symbol to others that an organization is committed to providing high-quality care. Urgent care organizations value Accreditation as a measure of professional achievement and quality of care. Urgent Care Center Accreditation is a benchmark of quality, not only to those involved in the health care industry but to the general public as well. Accreditation enhances the appeal of an Urgent Care center to payors and employers, and attracts the best providers who are eager to practice at a superior Urgent Care center. Click here to learn more about Urgent Care Center Accreditation. http://aaucm.org/professionals/accreditation/default.aspx

For many patients, Urgent Care centers are the main place to go for care — especially on weekends or evenings when their primary-care physicians don’t have office hours. Only 29% of primary care doctors have after-hours coverage. Urgent Care centers are a boon for patients in other ways. The wait time to see a provider is typically half an hour or less, compared to a multi-hour wait time in many Emergency Departments. And patients can often see a doctor, as opposed to a nurse practitioner if they go to a retail clinic. Moreover, Urgent Care centers offer imaging and other services not found in retail outlets. Employers, insurers and other payers also benefit from urgent-care centers, which charge only a fraction of what an ED visit would cost. And employees can get back to work sooner instead of spending half the day in the ED.

The extended hours and immediate availability of care at Urgent Care centers provides convenience for patients. As the specialty of Urgent Care Medicine grows, the public is learning that Urgent Care is a better choice over the emergency room for their immediate, non-life-threatening healthcare needs.

There are currently 20,000 physicians who practice Urgent Care Medicine today, and the number is growing. Urgent Care professionals have developed Urgent Care Medicine into an important, recognized specialty that represents this fast-growing medical field.

So, what does the future hold for the specialty of Urgent Care Medicine?

Physicians training in primary care specialties such as Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics are pursuing additional education in Urgent Care Medicine, and seasoned physicians are becoming Board Certification in Urgent Care Medicine. As the specialty grows, the development of training programs geared specifically towards Urgent Care Medicine will take place.

Increased recognition of Urgent Care Medicine as a distinct specialty. Many organizations and facilities accept and recognize Board Certification in Urgent Care Medicine and have requested verification of the Board Certification of our Diplomates.

Because of the excellence of AAUCM Accreditation standards, many third-party payers, commercial insurance carriers, and local and state agencies recognize Urgent Care Center Accreditation with the AAUCM as a valuable accomplishment. The Academy’s UCCA program is accepted by Aetna and Cigna, and United Healthcare recommends Accreditation with the AAUCM to facilities which are contracting with them.

Physicians, Physician Assistants, and Nurse Practitioners who specialize in Urgent Care Medicine will continue to elevate the quality and capability of the “walk-in clinic” to include treatment of a full range of non-emergency illnesses and injuries.

Quick Stats

There are approximately 9,300 walk-in, stand-alone urgent care centers in the United States, and 50-100 new clinics open every year (numbers fluctuate with corporate buy overs, expansions and consolidations).

Emergency room visits now number approximately 110 million annually.

In a ten-year span, from 1994 to 2004, the number of hospitals and emergency rooms decreased by 9%, while emergency room visits increased by more than one million visits a year.

Family Practice residencies face a continued downward spiral of applicants to their training programs; of 2,555 open positions, 2,329 positions were filled. (AAFP 2009 Match Summary and Analysis)

In 2009, fewer medical school seniors selected Family Medicine as their specialty than in 2008 (1,083 vs.1,172).

A 2009 RAND Corp. study reported 14 to 27%of ED visits could be handled by Urgent Care centers or retail clinics, saving up to $4.4 billion a year in health costs.

The U.S. likely will need almost 52,000 additional primary care physicians by 2025 to meet the country’s health care utilization needs. That’s the conclusion reached by a team of researchers whose work is highlighted in an article titled “Projecting U.S. PrimaryCare Physician Workforce Needs: 2010-2025″.

By the American Academy of Urgent Care Medicine

Source: http://www.aaucm.org/about/future/default.aspx

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