Meet the New Urgent Care Boss—Not the Same as the Old Boss

Back in the day, you probably would have been right to assume that the closest urgent care center was founded, owned, and run by a physician. Many other practices (primary care, pediatric…) would have been the same. Well, times have changed in a big way. The mavericks who simply wanted to find a better, more sensible way of practicing medicine and wound up creating a new industry are now employees of national and regional health …

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Telemedicine Still Struggles to Catch on in Urgent Care

Some urgent care insiders view telemedicine as a natural fit for our industry—an opportunity to give patients even more convenient access to competent healthcare providers, thereby increasing engagement and resulting in more care for more patients. Others just don’t see how it would be applicable, or fear that remote visits could result in overprescribing (especially for antibiotics and pain medications). Judging from data just released through the Urgent Care Associations 2021 Summer Benchmarking Report, widespread …

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Millennials Are Drifting Away from Primary Care—Just as They Need a Physician Most

There’s no gentle way to put it: Members of the Millennial generation simply are not as interested in having a traditional relationship with a primary care provider as their predecessors have been. That shouldn’t be surprising, though, given that each successive generation seems to drift farther from that model of care. Where 82% of Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) report having a primary care provider, the same can be said for only …

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Pandemic Fluctuations: A Historic Drop, Then a Meteoric Rise in Patients Visits Per Day

Just to confirm, the COVID-19 pandemic has generally not been kind to the urgent care industry. Locations that could get their hands on testing supplies at the outset were inundated with patients clamoring to know if they had the virus. The many facilities that got shut out of test distribution chains suffered greatly, though—as did the industry as a whole. Now, even as case loads continue to climb again in many states, the public’s panic …

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Is Specialization the Future of Urgent Care?

Urgent care has historically been viewed as a setting where patients could present with anything short of life- or limb-threatening complaints (though even those parameters have been stretched in dire situations.) And that identity has served the industry well, as evidenced by nearly constant growth over several decades. As time wore on, though, it became evident that there are business opportunities to be had by addressing niches with special needs. Occupational medicine is a prime …

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Opioid Visits Keep Skyrocketing

Driven partially by increased use of the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, patients continued to flood emergency rooms across the country in increasing numbers over the 10-year period ending in 2014, according to data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ; see graph below). The implications for urgent care are A) that some of those patients surely received their first opioid prescriptions in an urgent care center legitimately for treatment of acute pain, underscoring …

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Are Alternative Payment Models Catching On?

There’s little evidence that emerging payment models (eg, concierge medicine, cash-only practices, and accountable care organizations [ACOs]) are gaining any serious traction in urgent care—but that doesn’t mean they’re not making headway elsewhere. ACOs, in particular, are growing in usage among physicians, according to the Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2017. Usage of cash-only and concierge models is also growing, albeit much more modestly, as the graph below shows. Data source: Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2017. …

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Urgent Care Occupational Medicine Efforts Should Focus on the Public Sector

Over two-thirds of urgent care centers offer a blend of occupational medicine services (generally defined as treatment of workers compensation injuries, conducting physicals for compliance or fitness for duty, and substance abuse testing), according to the Urgent Care Association.1 One challenge for those that do is that the overall incidence of workplace injuries has declined significantly this century, due to an overall shift from a manufacturing to a service and information economy, the offshoring/outsourcing of …

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100 Largest Urgent Care Center Operators

The 100 largest urgent care operators in the United States run approximately 25% of the locations under their banners, according to research by Practice Velocity and National Urgent Care Realty. They’re getting even bigger, too; the number of locations owned by the companies on the list expanded by about 20% this year. While ownership was once delineated between hospital-affiliated and independents, several multi-unit operators now operate in some (but not all) of their markets as …

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Flu as a percentage of total visits

The following chart, based on a study of over 20,000,000 patients’ records in Practice Velocity’s database of patient visits across the United States, illustrates the frequency of influenza diagnoses between January 2010 and October 2016 relative to total urgent care visits that carried an evaluation and management (E/M) code. The period of December through January is the typical peak of the flu season, although in some years flu outbreaks occur somewhat earlier or later. In …

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