Asheville-based, not-for-profit Sisters of Mercy Urgent Care is celebrating Urgent Care Awareness month and hopes to educate patients about when to seek medical treatment at an urgent care center versus a hospital emergency room while detailing the important gap urgent care centers fill in the healthcare industry.
When unexpected health mishaps arise, many people’s first reaction is to head to an emergency room. But when those illnesses and injuries aren’t life threatening, not knowing the best option for care can end up costing patients both time and money.
“We recognize the importance of partnering with area hospitals to alleviate the burden on emergency rooms,” said Sisters of Mercy Urgent Care CEO Tim Johnston. “Because we provide urgent care for non-life threatening injuries and illnesses, area hospitals are able to make better use of their resources and provide faster ER care for true emergencies. Sisters of Mercy Urgent Care partners with ERs and primary family physicians as we work together: primary care for wellness; urgent care for non-life threatening care when their primary care physician is not available; and area hospitals for acute care.”
According to Health Affairs, an estimated 27% of all ER visits could have taken place at an urgent care center or retail clinic, at a cost savings to patients of approximately $4.4 billion annually. Additionally, Urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA) reports that the nearly 7,100 urgent care centers in the United States provide walk-in and extended hour access for a variety of illnesses and injuries that often get treated in emergency rooms instead.
With 89 percent of urgent care centers experiencing an increase in patient visits in 2014, the trend of industry growth ensures that more patients will continue to have cost- and time-saving healthcare options. Most urgent care centers (90 percent) provide a waiting time of 30 minutes or less to see a provider, and at 84 percent of centers, patients spend 60 minutes or less for an entire patient visit.
“The demand for urgent care is growing, and people need us, ” Johnston stated. “It’s why we’ve been here for more than 30 years. Starting June 5 we will be open on Sundays at our North location, and by early fall we will open a new center in East Asheville. This expansion will help us better serve our community. Sisters of Mercy Urgent Care saves our community an estimated $12 million annually through ER avoidance.”
UCAOA data also indicate that 98 percent of patients who visit urgent care centers are in the appropriate care setting – with only 2 percent needing emergency room diversion.
“When people know where to go based on their circumstances, the system works best,” said Dr. Robert Kimball, president of the Board of Directors, UCAOA.