Urgent Care Medicine – Dramatic Growth & Impactful Trend in 2023 Health Care

Patients and doctors meeting and waiting in clinic hall. Hospital interior illustration with reception, person in wheelchair. For visiting doctor office, medical examination, consultation concept

Urgent care medicine growth is one of the most dramatic and impactful trends that will shape health care in 2023. Health care stakeholders must prepare for key changes as health care becomes even more inaccessible for rural patients and additional retail entities are entering into the clinic space.

Booming Urgent Care Growth
Urgent care is booming due to patient demand, convenience, and costs. Urgent care centers are the major place to go for care for faster, easier, cheaper care – especially on weekends or evenings when their primary-care physicians do not have office hours. Only 29% of primary care doctors have after-hours coverage.

Urgent Care centers are a significant asset for patients as the wait time to see a provider is typically half an hour or less, compared to a multi-hour wait time in many Emergency Departments (ED). Urgent care centers also offer imaging and other services not found in retail outlets. Employers, insurers and other payers also benefit from urgent-care centers, which charge only a fraction of what an ED visit would cost. And employees can get back to work sooner instead of spending half the day in the ED.

Health Care for Millennials
Urgent care is transforming how people, especially Millennials, utilize health care. These facilities can gain a larger share of patients as their popularity grows. Urgent cares are now being referred to as “the Starbucks of the health care world” because they are appearing all over the map. Non-acute health care organizations can benefit by partnering with them.

Urgent care centers offer advantages over primary care providers, such as not requiring an appointment and being open late and on weekends. The centers can be a point of entry into health care for Millennials. Many Millennials do not have a primary care physician, so they go to urgent care instead because they can show up without an appointment.

Millennials are considered relatively healthy and have only one or two health emergencies a year. Millennials make up 25% of all visits to urgent care clinics, according to a 2019 Harmony Healthcare IT survey.

Health Care for Older Patients & Rural Areas
Older patient groups also report that they do not always turn to a primary care physician for care. The National Center for Health Statistics stated that 21.4% of patients over age 65 used urgent care facilities and that 11% had no primary care physician in 2019.

Rural areas in particular are benefiting from the rise in urgent care clinics. A report by FAIR Health, a nonprofit that studies insurance claims, found that from 2007 to 2017 there was a 2,308 % increase in insurance claims for procedures done in rural urgent care facilities compared to a 1,675 % increase in urban areas.

Predictions for Extraordinary Growth in Urgent Care Medicine
The extended hours and immediate availability of care at urgent care centers provides convenience for patients. The specialty of Urgent Care Medicine will continue to grow as the public becomes more aware that urgent care is a better choice over the emergency room for their immediate, non-life-threatening healthcare needs.

The urgent care centers industry in the U.S. is expected to reach $45.9 billion in 2022 according to IBISWorld. One reason for urgent care center popularity is because people like the ability to walk in without an appointment and receive immediate treatment. A national network of health care providers indicates that the average “door-to-door” time in urgent care centers, or the time from the moment a patient enters the facility to when they leave, is around 55 to 79 minutes.

The urgent care centers are similar to walk-in retail clinics, but they are able to treat more serious conditions that are non-life threatening. For example, urgent care centers can treat fractures and wounds, conduct blood tests and take X-rays. Health care systems can expand their business and realize new benefits by working with an urgent care center.

Retail health clinics are predicted to work to double their share of the primary care market in 2023. Amazon, Walmart, Walgreens and CVS are well-established in the retail health clinic space, but more retail companies will join their ranks next year.

More Americans are expected to go to retail health clinics for primary care, especially since hospitals are failing to meet their patient experience expectations amid resource constraints.

Urgent care centers also have been considered an underused resource for occupational medicine because they provide care for occupational injuries, checkups and return to work clearances. Health care providers can capitalize on urgent care industry trends to grow their business by partnering with a health care system that has these centers in its network.

Urgent care clinics handle about 89 million patient visits each year, or more than 29 % of all primary care visits in the country, and nearly 15 % of all outpatient physician visits.

Patients seeking medical care do not want to wait. Urgent care clinics have longer hours and walk-in appointments that fulfill their need in a way traditional physicians’ offices cannot always accomplish.

Urgent care clinics are sometimes referred to as Medical Retail or “Medtail” because they blend retail elements such as ground-floor locations that provide easier access, and the ability to schedule same-day appointments using an online calendar program. A customer-first approach, oriented to service and technology, is energizing growth.

Closing Thought
The following quote provides a valuable insight for the continued growth of urgent care medicine.

“This is the age of the patient as a consumer, where fast and convenient is never fast and convenient enough,” says Richard Park, MD, CEO and co-founder of CityMD, a group of urgent care clinics in New Jersey, New York, and Washington state.

-Glenn Ebersole, Director of Business Development