Urgent Care Visits Increase
People are visiting urgent care centers for minor illnesses and injuries more than ever. That’s according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in September 2018. Researchers say that between 2008 and 2015, visits to urgent care clinics increased by 119 percent. During that same period, emergency room visits for noncritical conditions, like those treated at urgent care centers, fell by 36 percent.
Lower out-of-pocket costs, convenience, and shorter wait times are the main reasons for the shift from emergency room care to urgent care, the study’s authors say. Emergency room care can be expensive, so many insurance plans have created incentives to encourage patients to receive care elsewhere. At the same time, in response to patients’ expectations for more convenience and shorter wait times, alternative care facilities, such as urgent care centers and retail clinics, have seen an increase in growth. As urgent care centers rise in popularity, they become more accepted as credible alternative venues in communities.
However, the increase in urgent care visits doesn’t necessarily mean that people are opting for urgent care centers over emergency rooms, researchers say. Given that the use of acute care facilities rose by 31 percent during the study period, and health care spending per person per year rose by 14 percent, it may be that people are simply getting more medical care than they used to. That’s partly due to the proliferation of urgent care centers, which may attract patients who otherwise wouldn’t have sought medical attention. Consider that, according to a recent report, there are more than 9,000 urgent care facilities in the country.
As urgent care services grow and evolve, the market becomes increasingly competitive, and to distinguish themselves, more centers are choosing to hire physicians who are board certified in urgent care. Patients may not be familiar with the stringent requirements for board certification, but they certainly understand that it’s a mark of a physician’s expertise, and thus, they can be confident of receiving expert care at a facility that has certified physicians on staff. In view of this, when an urgent care center hires physicians certified in the specialty, it’s in an ideal position to market itself as a leading choice for medical treatment.
In addition to boosting the prestige of urgent care centers, board-certified physicians demonstrate to the public that they have mastered the skills and knowledge required to deliver exceptional urgent care. The American Board of Physician Specialties® (ABPS) offers certification in urgent care through its Member Board, the Board of Certification in Urgent Care Medicine (BCUCM). The BCUCM is the nation’s first multi-specialty member board completely dedicated to providing board certification to qualified physicians who specialize in urgent care medicine. BCUCM Diplomates are considered leaders in their field and are on the staff of well-established urgent care facilities across the country.
To learn more about the benefits of board certification through the BCUCM, or about eligibility requirements, contact the ABPS today.