Growing Number of Urgent Care Centers is Changing the Paradigm for Health Care

December 6, 2022
Doctor with Patient
The urgent care industry and urgent care trends are driving a change in how patients think about and receive health care. Urgent care centers are convenient and their number of locations is growing, making them increasingly available to patients. 

The urgent care centers industry in the U.S. is expected to reach $45.9 billion in 2022, having experienced growth of 7.1% per year on average between 2017 and 2022, according to IBISWorld. 

One of the reasons for their popularity is because people like the ability to walk in without an appointment and receive immediate treatment. According to Solv, a national network of healthcare providers, the average “door-to-door” time in urgent care centers, or the time from the moment a patient enters the facility to when they leave, is around 55 to 79 minutes. 

The centers are similar to walk-in retail clinics, but they are able to treat more serious conditions that are non-life threatening. For example, urgent care centers can treat fractures and wounds, conduct blood tests and take X-rays. Health care systems can expand their business and realize new benefits by working with an urgent care center.


Urgent care centers are typically much less expensive than an emergency room visit, even for the same procedure. The average ER visit can cost between $1,200 and $1,300, while the average urgent care cost is between $100 and $200, according to American Family Care. 
Non-acute providers can work with urgent cares to grow their business and attract new patients. “Health systems understandably want in on the action, but rather than make a go at creating urgent care clinics themselves, oftentimes the best strategy—from a financial and strategic perspective—is to partner with the ones that already exist,” according to an article by Healthcare Finance.
The article points out that these partnerships require a contribution of capital, and in return, the health system is able to leverage the expertise of urgent care centers, including their staff. Adding an urgent care clinic can also help enhance the health system’s brand and reputation by making care more convenient for patients.
“For health systems that have successfully established urgent care partnerships, the results have been satisfying from a dollars-and-cents perspective,” Healthcare Finance notes.
The notion of urgent care partnering with a larger network is not new. A 2017 article from PatientBond advised, “In order to stand out from the crowd, small and mid-sized UCCs [urgent care clinics] should market themselves to both payers and providers in order to become part of a network.”


Urgent care centers offer some advantages over primary care providers, such as not needing an appointment and being open late and on weekends. The centers can be a point of entry into health care for millennials. Many millennials do not have a family doctor, so they go to urgent care instead because they can show up without an appointment.
Making follow-up appointments after urgent care visits can serve as a handoff from urgent care to primary care physicians. This encourages millennials to see a doctor for any other concerns or for ongoing health and wellness rather than seeking urgent care for all health care needs.
Health care systems that include urgent care centers can make this transition to a primary care physician or another type of provider more seamless. Patient information can be securely shared through the network so doctors have access to the medical history for diagnosis and treatment. Facilities benefit by steering patients to the most appropriate care provider and by gaining new patients, while patients benefit by having physicians who can treat their conditions and offer follow up appointments in clinics that are typically less expensive than urgent care centers.

“Many millennials do not have a family doctor, so they go to urgent care instead because they can show up without an appointment.”


Urgent care centers are growing in numbers and in popularity to fill a need in health care. They are different from emergency departments, physician clinics and retail clinics in the types of treatment they provide, yet they can partner together to meet the diverse needs of patients.

For example, urgent care centers have been called “an underused resource” for occupational medicine because they provide care for occupational injuries, checkups and return to work clearances. Health care providers can capitalize on urgent care industry trends to grow their business by partnering with a health care system that has these centers in its network.

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