Urgent Care Awareness Means Addressing the Industry’s Expanding Healthcare Role

As the weather warms up and we collectively, as a society, become more active, Urgent Care centers will see more of us. Injuries inevitably result from our favorite warm-weather activities: organized sports, running, grilling, going to the beach and even going for walks. The reasons behind Urgent Care visits are never enjoyable, but as far as the quality of health care received, the experience generally is.

Convenience is one of the top reasons patients choose to visit an Urgent Care center. According to a report from DX Marketing, 78.6% of the U.S. population is within a 10-minute drive of an Urgent Care center. And a recent study from WD Partners found that 44% of patients choose Urgent Care due to the convenient location. Having access is important, but the experience is what really matters: Urgent Care practice is quick and efficient (as opposed to having to wait hours in an emergency room).

“We were the first to offer healthcare in a consumer-focused way and that really resonates with patients,” Lou Ellen Horwitz, Chief Executive Officer of the Urgent Care Association, said. “A patient can walk through the door and get a fairly broad scope of care whenever they need it. Urgent Care centers caught onto the fact very quickly that patients really like being put first from both a quality and service standpoint.”

May is Urgent Care Awareness Month, an ideal time to address the expanding role Urgent Care plays in our nation’s – and world’s – healthcare system: It bridges the gap between primary care and emergency care. Urgent Care centers are the places to go for convenient and efficient medical care for urgent, but not emergency, situations. Treating minor burns, scrapes and cuts is a vital, yet singular piece of the Urgent Care puzzle. Urgent Care also treats conditions such as allergic reactions, ear infections and strep throat; provides X-ray imaging and lab services such as testing for COVID-19, STI’s, pregnancy and blood glucose; provides support and treatment for mental health concerns; and provides preventative services in the way of physicals and vaccinations.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought an influx of patients to the over 10,000 Urgent Care centers, many of whom hadn’t set foot in an Urgent Care facility previously. Patient volume is up 60% from pre-COVID times, according to a report from Experity. Communities around the nation are realizing that, although COVID concerns may have been the reason they opened door on Urgent Care, their local center provides the medical support they often need. This increase in patients has further proven that Urgent Care keeps non-emergencies out of emergency rooms. In a study by PubMed, it was found that ER visits decrease by over 17% when an Urgent Care center opens nearby, allowing emergency rooms to focus more on true emergencies.

Urgent Care, as a practice, has been around since the early 1980’s. The concept grew because the structure resonated with patients, but it was without concerted direction for some time. That changed in 2004, when the Urgent Care Association (UCA) was established. The association pulled together care providers and operational leaders to set standards and provide resources for members, and its primary reason for existing is to ensure the future sustainability of Urgent Care.

UCA and its center members are fighting for that sustainability right now. They have found through research and visits to Washington, D.C. that a lot of work needs to happen with educating regulatory agencies on the scope of care Urgent Care provides, and why it is important that Urgent Care be included in future emergency planning. UCA has created a three-year, three-layered advocacy plan to address these concerns: Educate on Urgent Care overall, advocate for specific items to get paid more fairly for services performed, and address healthcare disparities throughout all efforts.

“I believe UCA has already developed a strong and solid foundation in setting a standard for Urgent Care within the healthcare industry,” Suzanne Beauvoir Jackson, Board Trustee for the Urgent Care Foundation, said. “The demand on our centers to serve as a front door into the healthcare ecosystem will only increase.”

About the Urgent Care Association

The Urgent Care Association (UCA) is the largest, most notable trade and professional association in Urgent Care with over 10,000 members, representing Urgent Care clinical and business professionals from the United States and abroad. The association is composed of industry leaders, care providers and suppliers in the field of on-demand, consumer-focused healthcare. UCA started as the Urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA), and was founded on November 12, 2004 as a 501(c)6 by Don Kilgore, Dr. John Koehler, Dan Konow, Dr. William Meadows, Dr. Lee Resnick, Marge Simat, and Dr. David Stern. On May 7, 2018 UCAOA became the Urgent Care Association (UCA).

UCA’s role is to advance and distinguish the role of Urgent Care and on-demand medicine as a healthcare destination and support the ongoing success of members through education, advocacy, community awareness, benchmarking and promoting standards of excellence.