Urgent care has made its reputation on being able to offer a wide array of services for patients who don’t need to go to the emergency room but who shouldn’t wait days to go to a primary care practice. For reasons that are many (and valid), that has not extended to patients who need access to mental health services. Most obviously, it’s not what most urgent care centers were created to do, and so are they’re not staffed accordingly. Then there’s the issue of low throughput—which runs counter to the convenience aspect of the UC brand. Finally, reimbursement for mental health services is an entirely different model. And yet, the need for mental health care is more urgent than ever. One example of many: As reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the percentage of adults experiencing symptoms of anxiety disorder nearly quadrupled between 2019 and 2021. At the same time, those same people have to wait longer than ever to get an appointment with a mental health professional. It’s no wonder that a company called Mindful Care, which employs an urgent care clinic model for mental health needs, just raised $7 million to expand beyond the six states in which it operates. Clearly there’s a need; the company claims they average more than 10,000 patient visits per month. Some large, relatively conventional chains (Xpress Wellness, Fast Pace) do offer some related services, often employing telemedicine. The question is, does the demand and dearth of readily available service providers equate to the right time for more UC operators to follow?
Is It Time for Urgent Care to Overcome Challenges to Offering Mental Health Services?