Chicago Tribune Examines Use of Urgent Care Centers
More people have begun using urgent care centers as a means of avoiding waiting for care in emergency departments or for a doctor's appointment, the Chicago Tribune reports. Urgent care centers provide medical services with no appointment and offer extended hours to customers seeking care for a wide range of non-life-threatening issues. Staff physicians, assisted by nurses, administer the care and generally have access to X-ray and laboratory services. Most services provided at the centers are covered by insurance, the Tribune reports.
The centers are experiencing more business as hospitals and private firms begin building new centers, in part to compete with retail clinics in Walgreen, CVS and Wal-Mart stores, according to the Tribune. Many insurers have begun asking members to use urgent care centers rather than EDs at times when their doctors' offices are closed. The Tribune reports that many patients prefer urgent care centers because procedures frequently cost only a portion of what they cost in EDs.
In most states, urgent care centers are not subject to oversight by health agencies, according to the Tribune. However, some have sought to obtain accreditation (Graham et al., Chicago Tribune, 5/13).