Many Americans have likely heard that foreign healthcare systems require patients to wait weeks, even months for treatment: Canda’s famous socialized medical care, for example, often features long periods before patients can see a doctor. But while much of the attention on medical waiting periods focuses on nations like Canada and the United Kingdom, the patients in the United States are also increasingly facing long waits for medical treatment. This, combined with rising medicals costs for emergency room care and other services, has made it more and more difficult for many people to access the medical treatment they need.
According to a Merritt Hawkwins survey of 15 major cities, the average wait to see a doctor at a local doctors office is 19.5 days, nearly three weeks. Moreover, in Boston, a city known for its medical centers and healthcare, the waiting time is 66 days, or more than two months. But patients looking for primary care appointments aren’t the only ones suffering from long waiting periods: anyone who has ever had to seek emergency room care can likely testify that hospitals are often overcrowded, causing hours of waiting before they can see a doctor for even a few minutes. What’s more, this experience will likely be further complicated by the issue of cost, as hospitals typically charge thousands of dollars for tests, blood work, and medication, which may or may not be covered by an individual’s insurance. These issues have raised concerns among a number of critics, who have suggested that medical care in the U.S. is becoming something that soon only the wealthy will be able to afford.
Fortunately, there may be a solution: urgent care centers. While designed to treat only non-life-threatening conditions, urgent care clinics offer relatively short waiting periods at prices that are significantly less expensive than what an emergency room would charge, making urgent medical care a helpful option for many Americans around the country.
Urgent care centers offer treatment for a wide array of injuries and illnesses that require immediate medical attention, ranging from broken bones to flu symptoms. Despite these varied services, however, most urgent care centers report wait times of 15 minutes or less for treatment. Additionally, these walk in clinics charge co-pays similar to that of a doctors office, saving patients 40-50% of the medical costs they would have been charged for emergency room care. These qualities are naturally drawing patients who did not require the services of an emergency room but had nowhere else to go due to long waits for primary care, which in turn reduces the wait times at these facilities. There are a number of problems within the modern healthcare system, including issues with price and insurance. However, for the time being, urgent care centers appear to be offering a helpful alternative to many patients in the United States. Research more like this.