20 things to know about urgent care

As healthcare shifts toward the outpatient arena, urgent care centers remain popular with patients and consumers looking to receive convenient and affordable treatment for minor conditions, imaging and blood tests.

Highlighted below are 20 facts and statistics to know about the urgent care market.

1. There are nearly 7,100 urgent care centers in the U.S., according to the most updated number from the Urgent Care Association of America. Included in this number are urgent care centers verified manually by UCAOA and provide full-service urgent care medicine (X-ray, lab, extended hours). There is no other national database, since federal registration is not required. 

2. Eighty-nine percent of urgent care centers said patient visits increased in 2014, the survey found.

3. The survey also found most (87 percent) urgent care centers acquired or built a new location in 2014, and 91 percent anticipated growth in 2015.

4. According to the UCAOA 2015 Benchmarking Survey, the most common urgent care center locations include:

  • Shopping centers/strip malls (34.1 percent)
  • Freestanding buildings (33.2 percent)
  • Mixed-use buildings (13.6 percent)
  • Medical offices (19.1 percent)

5. One average, current urgent care clinics have been in operation for seven years.

6. Urgent care clinics average seven exam/treatment rooms.

7. At most urgent care centers (90 percent), the wait time to see a provider is 30 minutes or less, and total patient throughput is 60 minutes or less at 84 percent of urgent care centers.

8. Nearly all urgent care centers (96 percent) operate seven days a week and are open at least 4 hours per day, according to the UCAOA 2015 benchmarking survey.

9. Eighty-seven percent of urgent care centers provide urgent or episodic care exclusively, whereas 13 percent provide urgent and ongoing primary care or specialty urgent care.

10. More than half (66 percent) of urgent care patients have an outside primary care physician.

11. Most patients who visit an urgent care center (98 percent) are in the appropriate care setting, according to the UCAOA benchmarking survey.

12. Two percent of patients who visit an urgent care center need to be transferred to an emergency room, the survey found.

13. The 2015 benchmarking survey also found 95 percent of urgent care centers call and/or email the patient after the visit.

14. Additionally, 22 percent of urgent care centers are hospital-owned, while 20 percent are owned by two or more physicians.

15.  Up to 27 percent of all emergency room visits could take place at an urgent care center or retail clinic, generating potential costs savings of approximately $4.4 billion annually, according to an article published in Health Affairs.

16. On average, urgent care centers reported nearly 14,000 patient care visits for the 2014 fiscal year, according to the UCAA. They handle an average of four patient care visits per hour and nearly 50 visits per day.

17. The average patient-per-hour ratio for urgent care physicians is 4.5 patients per hour, according to the AmericanAcademy of Urgent Care Medicine. This will vary on the severity or acuity of the patient's conditions.

18. According to the UCAA 2015 benchmarking survey, the most utilized marketing tools by urgent care centers are:

  • Social media (85 percent)
  • Community event sponsorships (83 percent)
  • Search engine optimization (75 percent)

19. In a 2014 whitepaper from McGuireWoods and UCAA, one industry professional predicted the urgent care industry will see a lot of activity through 2019 and beyond, since some large metropolitan areas could support two to three times the number of current urgent care providers.

20. The growth trend is demonstrated in a few local incidents. Nashville, Tenn.-based Hospital Corporation of America for instance, acquired Urgent Care Extra's Nevada operations, which include 14 urgent care centers in Las Vegas. Just this month, San Francisco-based Dignity Health announced it is teaming up with Atlanta-based GoHealth Urgent Care in a joint venture to bring consumer-focused urgent care to the Bay Area. In the first phase of the joint venture, it will open 12 urgent care centers in the next 12-15 months throughout the San Francisco area. And Last August, Boston-based Partners HealthCare announced plans to open up to 12 urgent care clinics in the next three years to cater to patients who need medical care, but don't need to go to an emergency room.

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