Patients & Hospitals Are Turning to Urgent Care Facilities For Aid

Extraordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things | Roger Stanmore MD, JDIf you’ve been paying any attention to the American health care system, you’ve probably noticed the rise in Urgent Care Centers.

These facilities offer medical services primarily to people who either cannot access their primary care physician or do not have one. Most patients are sick or injured, but not badly hurt enough to require emergency care. Commonly treated issues include fevers, stomach pains, diarrhea, and minor cuts and sprains. Many Urgent Care Centers also offer services such as vaccinations, blood tests, and STD testing.

Urgent Care Centers fill a much-needed niche. They help reduce wait times in Emergency Rooms, save patients money, and give ER doctors and nurses the space to focus on real emergencies. Many Urgent Care Centers began outside of the hospital system, seeking to offer a solution to overcrowded ERs. But just because Urgent Care Centers aren’t Emergency Rooms doesn’t mean that they can’t be affiliated with hospitals. In fact, many hospitals are now realizing it may be advantageous, both for themselves and for the patients, to team up with Urgent Cares.

Today there are about 7,100 Urgent Care Centers in the United States. Of those, 22% are owned by hospitals, and 15% more are in partnerships with a hospital. Hospitals can send patients to Urgent Care Centers for follow-up appointments. They can also advertise their affiliated Urgent Cares and encourage patients to visit Urgent Care Centers for non-emergencies.

From patient’s perspectives, Urgent Care Centers that are affiliated with hospitals are more likely to accept Medicare or offer financial aid, while also being considerably cheaper than regular hospitals. And while non-affiliated Urgent Cares usually allow patients to send any information gathered at the center to patients’ regular physicians, with affiliated Urgent Cares the sharing is generally more streamlined.

Also, in general, patients are also more willing to trust an Urgent Care associated with a hospital, especially if that hospital has a good reputation. Unaffiliated Urgent Cares may offer excellent services, but since the whole concept of Urgent Care Centers is still relatively new, affiliated centers have the advantage of familiarity.

It’s uncertain exactly what role Urgent Care Centers will play in the future. New technologies, such as self-diagnosis and self-check-up technologies, will likely be adopted by Urgent Cares even more quickly than they will by more traditional hospitals and independent physicians. And with the shifting climate surrounding American health care, much is still an unknown. Nonetheless, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Urgent Care facilities are here to stay.

 

Telemedicine, Mobile Technology and the Future of Urgent Care

TelemedicineThere are countless conflicting ideas surrounding what the future of Urgent Care might look like for the American public. Walk-in urgent care centers continuously spring up around the nation, and the physicians in this field continue to push limitations and boundaries, proving that they’re capable of meeting almost any need posed by a patient. However, what’s inarguable is the role played by new technology and telemedicine services when it comes to transforming this industry, particularly services that provide doctors on demand. 

Pager, which is an application that flaunts the tagline “skip the waiting room,” allows patients to schedule a health check and assessment of overall health via their mobile device. Patients are effectively able to connect with a nurse practitioner or doctor and receive answers to questions and concerns. They’re able to talk to a certified doctor or nurse over the phone, who will help to diagnose and treat symptoms. Additionally, doctors are made available to visit you at your home, office or hotel. They’re can help you wherever you are. 

DoctorOnDemand, HealthTap, Remedy Inc. LiveHealth Online, Microsoft HealthVault, HelloMD, Text4Baby, PillPack, Ping MD, Heal, Medicast, and RevUp are similar apps, available at different costs, which has and will continue to impact the way patients and doctors treat health and wellness. These services are a new twist on the old concept of house calls provided by doctors, but these direct-to-consumer services also attempt to cater to the immediacy of modern life.

Experts tend to agree that these technologies fill a necessary void, providing timely service to those who are immobile or shut-in. However, there are drawbacks. Firstly, these services tend to only be available in major cities, such as Seattle, New York, Nashville and San Francisco. Also, while you’re put into contact with a doctor with the same amount of effort that it might take to order a pizza, you aren’t in an urgent care facility, which likely has the tools and the devices to treat your ailment. Also, some patients do risk being misdiagnosed by competent, but misinformed drop-by clinicians working for medical apps. Some simply aren’t trained to make house calls, and others may not be the correct specialist to meet your needs or service your particular emergency. Additionally, these services don’t foster long-term doctor-patient relationships.

For those choosing to use these apps, be sure to do your research because technologies and doctors differ. Moreover, know the difference between emergency and urgent, don’t neglect primary care, and pay attention to your history and records to help that doctor to properly identify any potential long-term illnesses or chronic conditions.

Together, new apps, primary care, emergency services and urgent care services can work together to offer you the health care that you truly need.