The rise of urgent care: 5 findings and statistics

While most Americans have primary care physicians, statistics show many people seek treatment at urgent care centers. For many, urgent care centers fill the void in care left between crowded emergency rooms and overbooked primary care physicians, according to new piece from NPR.

Here are five major takeaways from the NPR story.

1. NPR recently conducted a poll in association with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. The finding suggest that a majority of people sought urgent care because they believed it to be more convenient and less time consuming than going to their regular physician.

2. In the same poll, 1 out 5 people reported that at least once in the past two years they were unable to see their regular physician due to a lack of available appointments.

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3. Max Lebow, MD, the medical director for Reliant Immediate Care in Los Angeles and a physician who spent years working in the emergency room, told NPR he witnessed lots of people who "never should have been in the ER in first place." He went on to assert that 80 percent of ER patients are not admitted into the hospital.

4. A recent review from the National Center for Health Statistics suggests visits to the ER can easily exceed $1,000 in costs. Costs for urgent care visits average out to be about $150.

5. There are now 7,000 urgent care centers nationwide. Roger Hicks, MD, emergency medicine physician and a part of the governing board of the Urgent Care Association of America, said in the NPR piece, "One thing is for sure, until the shortage of primary care doctors eases nationally, the number of urgent care centers — and their use — will continue to climb."

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