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More and more communities—big and small, urban and suburban—are seeing their choices for immediate medical care multiply at a rapid pace, thanks largely to the continued growth of urgent care centers. While that level of competition helps ensure that all the players in the market bring their A game to every encounter, the sheer number of options bolsters one of the key benefits that brings patients to urgent care in the first place: when there are more viable options for patients to visit, the wait times at each location tends to be shorter. The urgent care boom is a subset of dynamic growth and diversification in the overall healthcare market, with drugstore-based retail clinics and freestanding emergency rooms also multiplying at what some would say is an alarming pace. The difference is that urgent care features the same benefits (ie, immediate, competent care) without the much-discussed drawbacks of other settings. For example, the typical urgent care center always has a physician on site (unlike drugstore clinics), so it can manage relatively high-acuity complaints; it can also get patients in and out the door efficiently and at a relatively low cost, unlike hospital EDs and freestanding emergency rooms, respectively.

When Urgent Care Grows, Patients Benefit