Are Urgent Care Clinics Doing Their Job?
Written by Adam Groff
When it comes to the success of urgent care clinics in the US, the diagnoses is increasingly favorable.
In fact, more and more patients turn to urgent care as an alternative to costly hospital emergency room visits every day. And, depending on the level of care, clinic physicians are more than meeting the need.
The question is, why are so many people going the urgent care route for their healthcare needs?
Urgent Care Clinic Statistics
Urgent care clinics are spreading their wings all across the country and quickly becoming a non-emergency treatment option.
According to the Urgent Care Association of America, there are over 9,000 urgent care clinics in the United States alone, which employ 20,000 physicians.
And, in terms of cost, urgent care clinics save patients and their health insurance providers an estimated $4.7 billion a year in healthcare expenses according to a recent National Library of Medicine survey.
The same survey also found that clinics across the country treat an average of 315 patients a week, which comes out to roughly 65 patients per physician per week depending on staffing. And, in terms of urgent care careers, clinic physicians make an annual average salary of $158,000.
Popularity of Urgent Care Clinics
Urgent care and emergency care are two separate levels of healthcare. Urgent care clinics cover many healthcare concerns a primary care physician would, including minor lacerations and trauma. Emergency room care, on the other hand, goes above and beyond, handling all life-threatening medical concerns.
And, even though urgent care clinics don't offer the same comprehensive coverage, they're still winning the healthcare popularity contest.
Here are a few reasons why:
· Upfront Pricing - Urgent care clinics offer "flat rate" prices for many common medical treatments whereas hospital emergency room prices for the same treatment can sometimes double or triple just because the visit is labeled "emergency."
· Care for the Uninsured - Considering there are almost 40 million Americans without health insurance, urgent care clinics are an affordable alternative when it comes to common health problems and injuries. And, regardless of the upcoming nationwide healthcare act, urgent care will always be a convenient option.
· Wait Times - Urgent care clinics have shorter wait times than most hospital emergency rooms. Why? Well, it comes down to numbers. Towns with only one or two major hospitals experience a continuing influx of patients. But, with urgent care, because there are typically dozens of clinics per town, the patient volume is drastically less.
· Co-Pay Savings - Insurance provider co-pays are generally lower at urgent care clinics when compared to hospital emergency room co-pays. And, in some cases, there are health insurance providers that offer plans which cover the cost of urgent care visits altogether.
· First Come, First Serve - Unlike emergency rooms, urgent care clinics work on a first come, first serve basis. And, considering there are simply more to choose from, urgent care patient turn-around is much faster than the emergency room.
So, when it comes to the country's healthcare race, it's easy to see why urgent care clinics are doing so well.
About the Author
Adam Groff is a freelance writer and creator of content. He writes on a variety of topics including personal health, budgeting tools, and home improvement.
NHS staff face severe impact on mental health due to COVID
The decision to drop COVID-19 restrictions in England this month alarmed doctors in the National Health Service (NHS) while hospitalisations are on the rise. At the same time, hospitals have started cancelling operations again adding to the existing backlog of operations, which estimates say could take a year to clear.
Dr James Gilleen of the University of Roehampton and his Covida Project team are warning of the ongoing risks to the mental health of NHS staff, many of whom are traumatised from the first wave of infections. “As the UK continues to see COVID-19 infection numbers rise at a similarly alarming rate as those seen during the country’s second wave, it’s combined with a renewed strain on the NHS and its staff" he said.
The Covida Project is a digital tool created to assess the psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on frontline workers including NHS staff, the police and carers.
“Healthcare workers are already exhausted and burnt-out; they are traumatised from their experiences of working during the pandemic. During the first wave in May 2020, a study from the Covida Project found an unprecedented quadrupling of the number of NHS staff with high levels of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared to before Covid-19" Gilleen said.
"Having the most severe levels of these symptoms was statistically linked to four key factors - insufficient access or pressure to reuse Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), insufficient workplace preparation, insufficient training and communications, and a higher workload. Staff aren’t just anxious, depressed and traumatised from being over-worked – it is from feeling unsafe and at risk."
The Covida Project found that almost a third of healthcare workers reported moderate to severe levels of anxiety and depression. The number reporting very high symptoms was four times higher than before the pandemic.
Gilleen adds, “With COVID-19 restrictions now fully removed in England, NHS staff face the daunting triple-threat of rising Covid-19 hospitalisations, huge backlogs of medical operations to clear, and the added expectation of large increases in winter flu, which is already being seen even now in summer.
"These difficulties are present at a time when the NHS is already under-resourced, impacted by sickness and/or staff being ‘pinged’ to self-isolate through the government’s track and trace app, and staff continuing to fear the daily risk of infecting family and friends.
"Together these are considerable psychological burdens and create a perfect storm for the mental health and well-being of NHS staff."
Gilleen says there may be worse to come, especially if new, more transmissible variants develop. "Previous research after other pandemics such as SARS has shown that residual mental health symptoms like PTSD can continue for years, so the impact of repeated waves over the long-term will be potentially catastrophic for the mental health of NHS staff.
He has some clear recommendations to protect the wellbeing of frontline healthcare workers. “To protect the mental health of NHS staff they must feel they are less at risk or in danger, have access to the required level of PPE, not be continuously over-worked, with better staffing, more opportunities for rest and space to share their stress.
"Despite this and similar findings from other studies, still not enough is being done to protect NHS staff mental health and wellbeing and we fear it will continue to suffer in the months to come. With this comes the real risk that large numbers of staff will burn out or even quit the NHS.”