- According to the Urgent Care Association of America, there are 7,100 urgent-care centers of which 22% are owned by hospitals and 15% in joint ventures with hospitals. The association's surveys show 87% of urgent-care center operators acquired or built a new location in 2014 and 89% had an increase in patient visits in 2014, up from the previous year.
- A driving force behind these investments, according to The Wall Street Journal, is the 50+ population who want convenient care but prefer connections to a larger health system where their primary care doctor may practice.
- In addition, health systems might view urgent care centers as a way to get patients into their system and keep existing patients from going to another facility. This is further backed by provisions of the ACA that base some payments on care coordination.
Some experts raise concerns those who use urgent-care may not establish a relationship with a primary care provider. However, the Urgent Care Association of America says 66% of urgent-care patients have a primary-care doctor.
The appeal of the urgent-care center is much shorter wait times than EDs (30 minutes versus 4 hours) and lower costs ($150 versus $1,354). Most urgent-care centers accept insurance with similar co-pays to primary care visits. In addition, most urgent-care centers are open in the evenings and weekends when primary care offices are closed.
Urgent care centers are accredited or certified by one by of three groups: Urgent Care Association of America, National Urgent Care Center Accreditation, or the Joint Commission. These indicate a center has passed a quality review - even though it is voluntary. Physicians can be board-certified by the American Board of Urgent Care Medicine.
Urgent-care centers are forecast to increase in number as the population ages and health insurance coverage increases, according to The Wall Street Journal.