U.S. Urgent Care Industry Grew 8 Percent Last Year

The Urgent Care Association reported Feb. 11 that, as of November 2018, the total number of urgent care centers in the United States reached 8,774, up 8 percent from the 8,125 centers in operation in 2017.

The U.S. urgent care industry continues to grow as more patients seek on-demand care for non-emergency conditions, according to the annual Benchmarking Report from the Urgent Care Association, which reported that much of the growth is being fueled by a diversifying patient population calling for immediate access to specialized and on-demand medical care.

"Urgent care centers play an increasingly vital role in the continuum of care, providing services for a wide array of patients who may be unable to see a primary care physician for various reasons, including simply not yet affiliating with one," said Laurel Stoimenoff, PT, CHC, CEO of UCA. "As a result, the patient populations utilizing urgent care centers are evolving, with Millennials leading the way in driving demand and increased utilization. And as Baby Boomers are aging into Medicare, we are also seeing year-over-year growth in that sector, as well."

The association reported Feb. 11 that, as of November 2018, the total number of urgent care centers in the United States reached 8,774, up 8 percent from the 8,125 centers in operation in 2017.

The 2018 Benchmarking Report indicates more than 70 percent of patients wait less than 20 minutes to see a provider at an urgent care center, and nearly 94 percent are seen in less than 30 minutes. In terms of total visit time, nearly 85 percent of patients are taken care of in less than 60 minutes. It also says 98 percent of patients seeking treatment in urgent care centers are in the right place, with only 2 percent being diverted to emergency departments for higher acuity care or diagnostics.

It says the number of Medicare and Medicaid patients seeking services at urgent care centers continues to rise, accounting for nearly 27 percent of all visits in 2018. This can be attributed, in part, to Baby Boomers who were already using urgent centers and are now starting to tap into Medicare benefits. "Urgent care centers continue to expand their scope of services, catering to the needs of local patient populations," said Stoimenoff. "Specialty services such as occupational medicine, pediatric care, and telemedicine are becoming more prevalent, increasing access for patients across the country, particularly in underserved communities. These services help alleviate crowded emergency departments while reducing the impact of physician shortages in communities nationwide."

UCA and Merchant Medicine collaborated on the annual report.

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