Seeking to serve a special niche in the health care community, walk-in medical clinics and urgent care centers have been cropping up in communities large and small across the U.S. They exist near other medical offices, hospitals, and in rural areas where access to health care is difficult at best, even now in retail chain drug stores. While some are classified as more equipped than others are, they all have one thing in common: growing need.
By The Numbers
How fast are walk-in medical centers growing? In the past five years, the number of stand-alone facilities has grown to 9,300 across the United States. According to statistics from the American Academy of Urgent Care, between 50 and 100 new clinics open every year. Of course the more clinics that open in an area, the less crowding and wait times are experienced by patients who just want to feel better right now.
Despite Health Care Reforms, Many Still Uninsured
Even with new health care policies in place, too many people for various reasons remain uncovered by medical insurance. For most, the general reason appears to be that the cost of coverage is still too high, even for those working full time and sitting above the federal poverty level. It has been common for those uninsured to seek even the most general medical care in their emergency room because they know they can always receive treatment and receive a bill for services, paying what they can later rather than paying anything upfront.
Not only is the use of emergency rooms for non-emergency health care taking vital time and care from those experiencing life threatening situations, the exorbitant cost of ER care only causes debt to mount. A recent RAND Corp. study estimates that between 14% and 27% of cases seen in the emergency room could have been handled just as well, if not quicker, by visiting an urgent care or walk-in clinic. This translates to up to $4.4 billion per year that could have been saved by patients.
Easy Access Means Better Health Care
As patients learn more about walk-in and urgent care options and the affordability and availability this option provides, the pattern will continue toward more usage of these medical centers and likely keep increasing. To save you time, money and hassle, we recommend visiting your walk-in clinic the next time you need medical attention. It may very well boost your opinion of health care altogether.