Urgent care centers changing face of US healthcare

Posted at 11:16 AM, Dec 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-28 17:11:13-05

NEW YORK – More and more people are visiting urgent care centers when they are sick instead of making an appointment with a primary care doctor or going to the Emergency Room.

It’s a trend that is changing the face of the healthcare industry across the United States.

David Weiner knew it was time to see a doctor after feeling under the weather for almost a week, “I had a sore throat for the past few days and wanted to get checked out and a rash on my hands and face.”

So he walked into Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care in New York, “you are seen quickly and get good service and much easier than going to my primary care doctor,” Weiner said.

New research in JAMA Internal Medicine finds the number of people treated at urgent care centers has more than doubled over the past eight years, while visits to primary care doctors and the emergency room for non-life threatening conditions are declining.

“We are a lot more convenient. Patients can look at our wait times live online,” said Dr. JD Zipkin with Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care.

He added that the centers treat a wide range of conditions — from cold and flu to broken bones and injuries that need stitches.

But Dr. Zipkin added that urgent care should not replace regular doctor visits — and that emergencies always require a trip to the ER.

“The time that is not appropriate to go to urgent care is things that really need the emergency room — like heart attack, strokes, major motor vehicle accidents or any other large trauma. That really needs an emergency room,” he advised.

Most urgent care visits cost significantly less than an ER visit and are similar in price to a primary care visit. Some other reasons to head straight to the ER instead of urgent care include difficulty breathing or serious burns.

Weiner left with a treatment plan for his sore throat and poison ivy in less than 30 minutes.

-Hilary Lane reporting for CBS News