20 things to know about urgent care | 2017

While a new presidential administration could mean big changes in healthcare, one trend likely to persist is the shift from inpatient to outpatient care. A major component of this resilient trend is the rise of urgent care.


The number of urgent care centers across the nation has increased dramatically in recent years. The increase has coincided with the emergence of consumerism as a more prominent influence on the healthcare industry. As patients continue to seek convenient, affordable treatment for minor health conditions, the expansion of urgent care is poised to continue.

Below are 20 things to know about urgent care.

1. Merriam-Webster added "urgent care" to the dictionary in 2017. The dictionary now defines urgent care as "medical care provided for illnesses or injuries which require prompt attention but are typically not of such seriousness as to require the services of an emergency room."

2. The first-known use of the term "urgent care" was in 1973, according to Merriam-Webster.

3. There are 7,357 urgent care centers in the U.S., according to Urgent Care Association of America's 2016 Benchmarking Report. The number marks an increase from 2015's count of 6,707.

4. Corporate entities own 33 percent of urgent care centers, up from 19 percent in 2015. Hospital ownership fell from 22 percent in 2015 to 15 percent in 2016, UCAOA reports.

5. Just 3 percent of patients who come to an urgent care center need to be diverted to an emergency department.

6. Urgent care centers reported an average of nearly 12,000 patients in fiscal year 2015, which amounts to an average of three patient care visits per hour and 32 visits each day.

7. According to the UCAOA report, 92 percent of urgent care centers maintained wait times of 30 minutes or less in 2015.

8. Of the urgent care centers surveyed by UCAOA, 85 percent reported implementing practices to secure patients with a primary care physician if they don't yet have one.

9. The top-reported staffing model for an urgent care center includes one physician, one physician assistant, two medical assistants, one radiologic technician, one center manager and two receptionists.

10. The average number of treatment rooms at an urgent care center is seven.

11. In 2015, 73 percent of urgent care centers either acquired or constructed a new location.

12. More than a quarter (27 percent) of U.S. patients reported in 2016 that they had visited an urgent care center in the last two years.

13. Of those patients, most (60 percent) visited urgent care for treatment of a minor wound or illness.

14. The most common illnesses diagnosed at urgent care centers in 2015 were acute upper respiratory infection, acute sinusitis, acute pharyngitis, cough and acute bronchitis, according to the UCAOA survey.

15. Common services offered at urgent care centers include concussion screening, travel medicine, telemedicine, wellness services, physical therapy and immigration physicals.

16. The rise of urgent care may be partially attributable to a shortage of primary care physicians. According to a 2016 survey on patient perspectives conducted by NPR and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, one in five respondents reported on at least one occasion in the last two years they were unable to see their primary care physician due to a lack of available appointments.

17. The main reason most patients chose urgent care over other care sites is because they thought wait times would be shorter (22 percent) or the location was more convenient (21 percent).

18. Most patients who visit urgent care are satisfied with their visit — 75 percent of patients reported their care as excellent or good in a 2016 survey.

19. Patients also seem to be satisfied with the cost of care at urgent care — 74 percent of patients said the cost of care at urgent care centers was reasonable.

20. The urgent care industry is projected to increase 5.8 percent each year through 2018, according to an industry report from IBISWorld.

Note: Statistics for points 3 through 15 are from the Urgent Care Association of America's "2016 Benchmarking Report," found here. Data for points 16 through 19 are from "Patients' Perspectives on Health Care in the United States: A Look at Seven States & The Nation," found here. Data for point 20 are from IBISWorld's urgent care centers market research report, found here.

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