Clinics and Urgent-care Centers Provide Alternative to ER

Clinics are stepping in to fill the gap between rising demand for emergency medical services and the declining number of hospital emergency departments.

Across the country, clinics are stepping in to fill the gap between demand for emergency medical services (which rose 43% between 1990 and 2009) and the number of hospital emergency departments (which declined 27% during the same period), explains an article today in the Wall Street Journal.

The offerings range from retail clinics in drugstores staffed by nurse practitioners to urgent-care centers run by physicians to urgent-care clinics and free-standing emergency rooms set up by hospitals. The variety of different options may seem overwhelming, but they can help patients save money through lower co-pays than emergency rooms. Many also offer the opportunity to schedule an appointment in advance, while the average emergency room wait was over four hours in 2010.

The number of medical clinics inside stores (such as Walgreen Co.’s Take Care Clinic and CVS Caremark Corp.’s Minute Clinic) has tripled over five years to 1,341, but hundreds of others have closed due to low volume. In all, there are an estimated 9,000 urgent-care centers in the United States, with 300 new ones being added each year.

To read the entire article, click here.