Over the past several years, while Washington has been busy telling us the ‘why’s and wherefores’ of U.S. healthcare and its costs … threatening to cut Medicare services, and medical provider pay… while allowing medical insurance rates to skyrocket for everyone… The healthcare industry has been busy learning how to improve their sagging profits by delivering care the way smart retailers deliver clothes, TVs and grocery items. HOW? Offer fast, convenient, competitively priced services in multiple locations with business hours that are aligned with consumer need.
No more calling the doctor after 3 days of coughing through your work day, only to be told that you cannot be worked in until next week at 12 noon… and be prepared to wait! Today’s consumer-patient wants to see their doctor when the symptoms are in play…NOT in a week when the illness is beginning to fade (or a lung falls out!). They also want to avoid missing work if at all possible, since today’s workplace is not always forgiving of that mid-week, mid-afternoon doctor appointment.
The growth of the new healthcare locations… often called “Urgent Care”, “After Hours Care”, “Medi-centers” or the like, may be satellite locations of hospitals or physician groups, or part of the pharmacy areas of major retail stores like Walgreens, CVS, Wal-Mart or Costco. They may also be independently owned franchise operations. Most of them offer physician or nurse practitioner services, and many offer lab work, x-rays, ultra-sounds, etc..
These facilities are set up so patients don’t have to wait any longer than necessary; with walk-in service OR appointments via phone or internet… and some even electronically update your primary care physician with details of the appointment.
Since many of these locations take insurances AND self-pay patients, they give the patient who doesn’t need to go through a hospital emergency room a place to get care, without the price tag of an ER visit… which will eventually reduce the emergency room crowds down to the real emergencies.
Keep your eyes peeled for new healthcare locations in your area, and ask your doctor for a recommendation. You never know when that inconvenient flu bug will bite!