Urgent care centers multiply, reaching 9,200+ in 2019

The urgent care center market continues to explode, with U.S.-based urgent care centers numbering 9,279 as of June 2019, according to an updated report from Urgent Care Association.

This marks nearly 6 percent growth since November 2018, when UCA counted 8,774 urgent care centers. The UCA count includes centers that offer appointments for unscheduled, walk-in patients with non-life-threatening or non-limb-threatening illnesses and injuries. It doesn't include retail clinics, like those associated with pharmacies, or primary care practices with extended hours.

As reported by Bruce Japsen in Forbes, this rapid growth has been driven primarily by health systems like Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA and Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare, among others, and by investor-owned companies like Optum, which has continued to grow into the space since its 2015 acquisition of MedExpress. This marks a shift for urgent care centers, which traditionally have been owned by physicians and medical groups.

While urgent care already represents more than 23 percent of all primary care visits, according to UCA's estimate, this influence is only expected to grow. A few notable areas for growth:

  • Rural communities
  • Specialty-focused centers, like those for pediatric, orthopedic or behavioral health
  • Service expansions, to include weight loss, smoking cessation and/or immunization services, for example

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