Urgent care centers have been the unsung heroes of recent years. In an era where we're seeing emergency rooms and even doctor's offices drowning in patient congestion, urgent care doctors have been a much-needed saving grace. With their ability to do a quick check up, or treat various strains and sprains, or even provide STD testing, they have the ability to do most of the things patients need from other facilities on-site. So let's take a look back at how these urgent care centers got their start, and how they've evolved since then:
The first urgent cares opened in the United States in the 1970s. Founded by emergency medical physicians, there was a need for walk-in clinics without sacrificing the qualifications of doctors. And so, the urgent care system was born. They started out only providing very basic care for colds, flus, aches, and other small issues.
Since their beginning, urgent care centers have been expanding rapidly, and now have over 10,000 locations in the U.S. with some of the best doctors. They have also increased their available treatments by a huge margin. They can now treat cuts, burns, colds, flus, strains, sprains, bites, splints, rashes, among many more. They can also provide physicals, STD testing, and digital x-rays. In 2012, the most common diagnosis was upper respiratory condition, and the most common procedure was wound repair.
Urgent care centers have no foreseeable end to their growth within the health industry. With all of their treatment options, combined with their cost-effectiveness, and timely care, they may be the one thing to help end congestion in other health sectors. An estimated three million patients see doctors at urgent care per week already, and that number is expected to continue to rise.
The majority (85%) of centers provide care seven days a week, with expanded hours, so it's likely that if your regular doctor's office is closed, they're open. Have you tried out urgent care? How was your experience?