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It’s a scene that often plays out in countless emergency rooms: a patient with an immediate medical concern makes a late night trip to the emergency room only to wait and wait, watching minutes turn to hours as they wait for their name to be called and to be seen by an emergency room doctor.

While going to the ER can be a quick fix, those who go could be in for a long wait to see an emergency room doctor, whether you’re dealing with minor injuries and illnesses or in need of immediate treatment for something more serious. The average time spent waiting in the ER increased from 46.5 minutes to 58.1 minutes from 2003 to 2009. Not only are visitors left in physical pain from long waits, they could be left feeling financial pain as well. According to the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, the average ER visitor pays anywhere from $615 to $1,318 per visit.

With the cost of ER visits on the rise and long wait times, urgent care facilities offer patients many options when it comes to finding a quicker and more cost-effective way to be treated, especially for minor injuries and illnesses. According to the Urgent Care Association of America, an estimated three million patients visit an urgent care facility each week. Currently there are 20,000 physicians practicing urgent care medicine.

Urgent care facilities are essentially a bridge between a walk-in health clinic and the emergency room and there are many benefits of urgent care facilities whether you’re being treated for minor injuries and illnesses or being treated for something more serious.

  • Roughly 60 percent of all urgent care facilities have a wait time of less than 15 minutes to see a physician or mid-level provider. In addition, 65 percent have a physician on-site at all times.
  • According to the Urgent Care Association of America’s 2016 Benchmarking Report, 92 percent of urgent care centers maintained wait times of 30 minutes or less in 2015.
  • More than 66 percent of urgent care centers open prior to 9 a.m. during the week and many within that grouping are also open on Saturday and Sunday.
  • The majority of centers (90.6 percent) remain open until 7 p.m. or later on weeknights and two out of five are open until 9 p.m. or later.
  • Seven in ten urgent care centers can provide IV fluids when needed.
  • About 40 percent of urgent care centers use electronic prescription ordering systems and many of them use computerized systems to collect patient data, clinical notes and billing information.
  • A physician or a group of physicians owns about 50 percent of urgent care centers, which gives that person or group of people a vested interested in having the facility run to the best of its ability.

If you’re in need of a trip to the doctor, consider for a moment that:

  • Approximately 25,000 Americans suffer every day from an ankle sprain.
  • Dizziness is the second most common complaint heard in doctor’s offices and it occurs in 70 percent of the American population.
  • Sixty five percent of people older than 60 experience dizziness or loss of balance, sometimes daily.
  • At least 40 percent of those suffering from chronic low-back pain don’t see a doctor or physical therapist.
  • Up to 69 percent of Americans say low back pain affects them on a daily basis.

An urgent care facility can help treat all of these symptoms that plague Americans on a day-to-day basis. The list of symptoms that can be treated at an urgent care is growing with facilities able to treat sports injuries, breathing difficulties, muscle strain and sprains, flu treatment, asthma, ear infections, sexually transmitted diseases, dizziness and many minor injuries and illnesses. The most common problem at an urgent care center was upper respiratory condition and the most common procedure was wound repair in 2012.

Emergency room doctors play an important role in providing patients with vital care, often in life threatening situations. But waiting in the ER for a non-threatening injury or condition can take hours and urgent care facilities can offer less wait time and help for anyone who comes in. To find an urgent care doctor in your area, visit UrgentCareCenter.org.

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