Urgent care is becoming the standard for the immediate medical assistance of a non-life threatening nature. The first urgent care centers were started in the 1970s and have increased to more than 7,600 by 2017.
Urgent care providers like Southern Rapid Care are part of the $18 billion industry that helps lower primary care costs.
The industry as a whole is growing and is expected to achieve a 5.8% growth in 2018. Sub-segments within the industry are achieving faster growth rates. Big companies had a total of 1,688 new centers in 2017, compared to 1,514 in 2016, for a growth rate of 11%.
Individual companies achieved higher growth rates of up to 23%. The industry is still in its infancy and the companies are more interested in growing to meet the demands. There is fragmentation due to a large number of companies and individual centers. Urgent care caters to individuals and cases where there is no need to go to emergency rooms, but cannot go to their primary healthcare physicians.
With an increasing number of centers, there is also an increase in the number of patients daily. There was an estimate that in 2016, the average urgent care center has 294 patients per week with about 15,300 patients during the entire year. This is expected to increase to 300 patients per week by 2021. The most common treatments are for colds, flu, throat infections, lacerations, wounds, sprains, and fractures.
As a matter of policy, if a fracture is brought to an urgent care center, this will be treated and then the patient will be sent to an ER if it is still necessary. The urgent care center can provide the first treatment, but further treatment would be done in a hospital.
Urgent care centers will become more important as their numbers grow. As the centers become mainstream, the growth in the number of centers and the average number of patients for each center is also expected to increase. This relieves the pressure on traditional primary care providers.