Rise of Urgent Care Centers: Healthcare’s Boom Town

Eric McDonald
Eric McDonald

Guest post by Eric McDonald, founder and CEO, DocuTap.

Expediency, exceptional service and a reasonable price. It’s the ideal for American consumers, particularly in healthcare. Because of that demand, patients were the drivers behind the adoption of the urgent care industry.

It started in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. Family practices started taking walk-in patients. While it wasn’t branded as such, that was the inception of urgent care. Since then, the urgent care industry has morphed into what it is today – a walk-in facility with extended hour service for adults and children with acute illnesses and injuries. But, that definition doesn’t do urgent cares justice. Urgent cares are setting the tone for what healthcare consumers want. They want unscheduled appointments, they want stellar service, they want a location that’s easy to find with accessible parking, they want distinguishable amenities, and they want the cost to be lower and more transparent.

There are approximately 9,000 urgent care centers in operation, according to the Urgent Care Association of America. The UCAOA’s 2012 Urgent Care Benchmarking Study concludes that urgent care centers see three million visits per week, totaling more than 160 million visits annually. The urgent care industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the country. With roughly two clinics opening every day, it’s expected there will be 15,000 urgent care centers by 2019.

With the boom in the urgent care space, some in the healthcare industry are concerned about the flow of patient information. Considering urgent care visits are typically one-offs, some patient information isn’t getting back to the primary care providers and health systems as it should. However, the healthcare industry is making strides to combat this through technology, interfaces, federal initiatives, and health systems partnering with urgent cares.

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