The pandemic is moving into its second year, with no clear end in sight. This period has been challenging for everyone and has led to profound social and professional changes. Many people are working from home, and clinics like ours have taken steps to ensure that medical care is available during this time. A variety of new approaches to providing urgent care have arisen in response. Telemedicine is one of the most prominent, a leap forward for a technology once thought to be fraught with insurmountable challenges. This core change has been accompanied by differences in scheduling appointments and managing follow-ups. It has also changed how we handle in-person treatment both before and after.
Urgent Care Changes During The Pandemic
A patient preference for Urgent Care isn’t a new phenomenon. There’s been a strong trend towards increasing demand for urgent care centers, telehealth, and at-home care. These visits accounted for nearly 23% of all visits before the pandemic began. These forms of care share one common trait, a focus on patient convenience. Urgent care also holds a place as the mid-ground between traditional physician visits and emergency care at hospitals. Part of the popularity of urgent care comes from:
- Providing care for conditions that are pressing but not life-threatening.
- Convenient accessibility with 24/7 availability.
- Significantly lower price points for care than a hospital.
- Preferential coverage over the ER by insurance companies
- A broad scope of care options and treatments
Studies have shown that millennials and later generations show a strong preference for urgent care centers. COVID-19 has served as a significant catalyst in the growth of the urgent care industry. The last two years have seen significant increases in patient visits to Urgent Care centers, reaching over 4 million two years ago. This trend has continued throughout the pandemic.
The reasons behind this are no mystery. Urgent Care centers have held an important place as the vanguard of the crisis. They provided access points for care, testing, and even vaccination. In July of 2021, the Coalition for Urgent Care access recorded 70 million COVID-19 tests performed at Urgent Care centers.
The success of Urgent Care during the pandemic required overcoming five pressing concerns. The workers at these facilities had to contend with:
- Increased waiting times as rapid tests for COVID-19 became scarce
- Extensive lines forming outside Urgent Care Centers due to hundreds of patients
- Patients who were infected intermingling with infected patients
- PPE shortages and interruptions in medical supply chains.
- Patient difficulty in finding knowledge of Urgent Care Capabilities
While the situation continues to improve, these remain pressing concerns faced by Urgent Care clinics today.
What The Future Of Urgent Care Looks Like
The pandemic has impacted millions with health concerns, emotional trauma, and experiences of loss. However, the world of medicine has responded and is evolving quickly to these events. Telehealth, once a spotty and unreliable service, is now a consistent and central part of many clinics’ care plans. At-home care options have also become more prevalent, and the importance of Urgent Care Centers is more evident than ever before. In addition, physicians have become more empowered than ever before, with new tools and treatment options bridging the gap between them and their patients.