This May, join Mercy Urgent Care in celebrating National Urgent Care Awareness Month, a time in which we give special recognition to the important role urgent care centers play in our national health care system.
When unexpected injuries or health issues arise, many people’s first reaction is to head to an emergency room. But when those illnesses and injuries aren’t life-threatening, these trips often end up costing patients more in both time and money.
And that’s where urgent care centers like Mercy come in. Knowing the best option for care can be essential in beginning the healing process, and urgent care centers fill a critical gap in the health care industry.
Facilities like Mercy help to “alleviate the burden on emergency rooms,” said 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. 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 a primary care physician is not available, and area hospitals for acute care.”
According to Health Affairs, an estimated 27 percent 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, the Urgent Care Association of America reports that the nearly 8,800 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.
Handling around 89 million patient visits each year (and rising), the trend of industry growth ensures that more patients will continue to have cost- and time-saving health care options. In 2018, the UCA found that more than 70 percent of urgent care patients waited less than 20 minutes to see a provider, and nearly 94 percent were seen in less than 30 minutes. Additionally, 85 percent of urgent care patients are seen and taken care of in under an hour.
“The demand for urgent care is growing, and people need us,” Johnston said. “It’s why we’ve been here for more than 30 years. Just recently, we’ve expanded our hours in Brevard from five to seven days per week — and, in June, our newest location will open in Columbus. These expansions will help us better serve our Western North Carolina community. In 2018 alone, Mercy Urgent Care saved our communities an estimated $15 million through ER avoidance.”
UCA data also indicates 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 UCA Board of Directors.