Trending Upward

Urgent care center growth up 6%

The Urgent Care Association reports industry growth of almost 6% in 2019, with 9,279 urgent care centers in the United States as of June 2019, up from 8,774 in 2018 and 8,125 in 2017.

In a recently updated white paper, “The Essential Role of the Urgent Care Center in Population Health,” the association reports that urgent care centers handle more than 112 million patient visits per year, representing 23% of all primary care visits and 12.6% of all outpatient physician visits.

UCA’s membership includes more than 3,000 urgent care centers. The association defines urgent care services as:

  • A medical examination, diagnosis and treatment for non-life or limb threatening illnesses and injuries that are within the capability of an urgent care center which accepts unscheduled, walk-in patients seeking medical attention during all posted hours of operation and is supported by on-site evaluation services, including radiology and laboratory services.
  • Any further medical examination, procedure and treatment to the extent they are within the capabilities of the staff and facilities available at the urgent care center.

The UCA’s database does not include retail clinics housed inside retail operations and typically alongside in-house pharmacies, or traditional primary care practices with extended hours for their patients.

Patient volume: In the UCA’s 2018 Benchmarking Report, representing 2017 data, respondents reported a median patient volume of 35 patients per day. Urgent care volume can be seasonal, typically spiking during late fall and winter.

Patient profile: Depending on the year of the UCA benchmarking survey, 25-40% of urgent care patients lack a primary care physician. A large demographic that often chooses urgent care for their acute needs are young, healthy adults devoid of chronic health conditions, according to UCA.

Ownership: Urgent care centers emerged largely as a physician or physician group strategy. In an early UCA Benchmarking Report based on the calendar year 2008, 54.1% of centers were physician owned while hospitals represented 24.8% of the total. But by 2014, physician ownership had dropped to 40% and hospital (or healthcare system) ownership had increased to 37% of respondents. Many multisite urgent care centers have taken on private equity partners, according to the association.

Typical services: Non-life- or-limb-threatening illnesses and injuries typically seen in urgent care centers include, but are not limited to:

  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Burns, minor.
  • Cough/cold/influenza.
  • Conjunctivitis (pink-eye).
  • Dermatological conditions (rashes, infections, including incision and drainage as a procedure).
  • Dehydration.
  • Ear infections.
  • Fractures.
  • Gastrointestinal disorders.
  • Gynecological infections and disorders.
  • Headaches/migraines.
  • Influenza
  • Lacerations, including suturing.
  • Pharyngitis (sore throats).
  • Sprains/strains.
  • Upper respiratory infections.
  • Urinary tract infections.
  • Work-related illness, injury, screening and wellness.
  • Detection of complications of chronic illness.
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