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With more and more patients demanding easier access to quality care, and insurers encouraging them to seek lower cost options than emergency room visits, urgent care facilities are rapidly filling the critical gap in modern healthcare. In fact, an estimated three million patients visit an urgent care facility each week in the United States. Business continues to boom, as urgent care centers account for $14 billion in revenue annually in the United States. However, this is not just a fad. The movement for urgent care actually began in the 1970’s in the United States, and has rapidly gained popularity around the world since then.

What exactly is an urgent care center? An urgent care center focuses on providing medical care for conditions that are not severe enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room, but still require immediate attention that your primary care physician may not be able to give you. A visit to your local urgent care center is a faster and more affordable option than an emergency room visit. A trip to the emergency room costs a whopping $1,500 on average, while treatment at an urgent care center is typically under $150. For those who are uninsured, the cost of treatment at an urgent care center is relatively low in comparison to paying out of pocket at a physician’s office or the emergency room.

Urgent care centers are designed to provide fast, quality health care. Nearly two-thirds of urgent care facilities are staffed by a mix of physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants with 65% of centers having at least one physician there at all times. Some of the most common medical conditions treated at urgent care centers include, upper respiratory illnesses, gastrointestinal illness such as food poisoning, lacerations, concussions, sprains and strains, and even concussions. It is important for you to gauge your condition and determine which kind of care would be best for your needs. However, following up with your primary care physician is also important. He or she may refer you to a specialist if your ailment is beyond their field or knowledge. For example, you may suffer from severe allergies that continued to persist after your doctor prescribed several different medications. In this case, it may be time to consider seeing a specialist who has expertise in that field. On the other hand, visiting an emergency room should be reserved for just that, absolute emergencies. Keeping your primary care physician up to date regarding your health is crucial as they tend to look at the “big picture” of your overall health and general well being whereas urgent care center and emergency room physicians are simply treating the illness at hand.

Encouraging friends and family to visit their own primary care physician regularly is a great wait to keep your loved ones fit and healthy. Many people have anxieties about visiting the doctor. Also, finding a new primary care physician can be difficult. By referring your own primary care physician to friends and family, you’re giving them the comfort of knowing their health is in good hands.

Times have changed, and the health care industry has also adapted to reflect those changes. Now, more than ever, we have several different avenues to suite our specific medical conditions and concerns.

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