The Urgent Care industry is changing the way the nation thinks about healthcare (2022)

What you need to know:

  • "You cannot make major decisions without data," a GoHealth representative told us. "We are a data-driven company and are always using data to help us make decisions, including expansion and hiring plans."
  • The average urgent care center was found to be in a zip code with an average population of 34,292 people, and a median income of $66,907.
  • 76.97% of all urgent care centers are within a mile from a pharmacy. 20.3% are within a mile of a major hospital.
  • No urgent care providerhad a line of patientsabove four at a time based on posted wait times during our study.This adds up to wait times of less than 30 minutes. Compare that to your nearest emergency room.
  • Most large urgent care companies have either been acquired by, partner with, or are supported by larger healthcare networks, providers, or even private equity.

Introduction

Before the 1960's, the American healthcare system had two options for those seeking immediate: a primary care physician oran emergency room. With the birth — and growth — and newfound longevity of the boomer generation, the number of people needing care skyrocketed past the point of sustainability for a two-tiered system. Thus, a solution was born: urgent care centers, a middle ground that combines the availability of an emergency room (nights, holidays, weekends) with the cadence of a doctor’s visit (no more than an hour).

Here are a few examples of how the healthcare industry — or at least, the Scripps Health Network — sees the use for urgent care centers today:

Go to the ERFOR...Go to Urgent Care FOR...
Chest pain or difficulty breathingAbdominal pain
Weakness/numbness on one sideWheezing or shortness of breath
Fainting/change in mental stateDehydration
Head or eye injury, includingconcussionsVomiting or persistent diarrhea
Broken bones and dislocated jointsSprains and strains
Severe cuts that may require stitchesSmall cuts that may require stitches
SeizuresX-Rays or lab services needed
Fever with a rashFever without a rash
Severe cold or flu symptomsModerate flu-like symptoms

Today, the urgent care industry is led by hundreds of major and minor providers, some private, others public. And virtually all of them areexpandingtheir retail footprints, nestling themselves strategically near potential customers, emergency rooms, and pharmacies. And, unlike hospitals and traditional primary-care providers, urgent care centers behave like retailers, driven by data to calculatehow to better care for communities. Take GoHealth ($PRIVATE:GOHEALTHUC), which look at demographics, competitor's locations, and other internal metrics todirect expansion plans within its network.

"You cannot make major decisions without data," a GoHealth representative told us. "We are a data-driven company and are always using data to help us make decisions, including expansion and hiring plans."

With this in mind, we dive deep into the Urgent Care Industry, thegrowing middle ground in the American healthcare industry,to understandhow it not only is disrupting it, but also how much itmay grow in the years to come.

The Urgent Care industry is changing the way the nation thinks about healthcare (1)

Urgent Care, Doc in a Box... Among these 12 companies, over 2,000 locations

For this report, we took a look at 12 of thelargest urgent care companies — either by number of centers or connections toimportantpublic or private entities — and found they have a combined 2,028 locations spanning coast to coast.

How did all of these companies determine where to place their urgent care centers? Theydid it in much the same way as a retail establishment looking to disrupt competing businesses might.Material provided by American Family Care to potential franchiseessuggests that entrepreneurs look for a "centrally-located clinic that’s reachable by multiple means of transit." Furthermore, it too uses data — specifically demographic information — to target potential customers in the area that the franchisee wants to open up shop.

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"We’ve been collecting demographic information about our clients for years," the eBook reads, "and when you become a franchisee, we’ll evaluate your territory to learn more about the local places that would make for great clinics."

That, in explicit terms, is alternative data at work.

The Urgent Care industry is changing the way the nation thinks about healthcare (2)

Location logistics

Taking a cue from these urgent care upstarts, we looked at demographic information across not only American Family Care's open centers, but also to all company datasets we have at our disposal.

The average urgent care center was found to be in a zip code with anaverage population of 34,292 people, and amedian income of $66,907.

The Urgent Care industry is changing the way the nation thinks about healthcare (3)A big-picture look at all the Urgent Care companies we cover with median income data from 2016 overlayed onto the map. Thinknum subscribers can see specific income levels on the platform.

At the low end of the spectrum, urgent care centers are opening up in communities with a median income as little as $13,204 — around the level of poverty — in the intercity zip codes of areas such as Detroit.

The Urgent Care industry is changing the way the nation thinks about healthcare (4)Median income data for the city of Detroit by Zip Code. Here in the heart of Midtown Detroit, we found a median income of $14,909,

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But where exactlyarethese centers in communities?

Typically they are locatednear emergency rooms, because a visit to an urgent care center that proves to be about a serious health matter can then allow a patientto make a quick transition to an ER. In fact,among our group of urgent care centers with full location data, only 48 were further than 10 miles out from an emergency room in a major hospital (Level I or Level II Trauma Center). These hospital locations were all tracked from the ProPublica ER Wait Watcher database.

99.1% of these urgent care centers are near pharmacies, and 97.63% are near a major hospital.

The one urgent care center thatis furthest distance from an emergency room— a Fast Pace Urgent Care in Holly Springs, Mississippi — is only 22.48 miles out from a major hospital, and there is a Level IV Trauma Center (read: a smaller hospital that still has basic emergency care, but holds a lower volume of patients) about 10 minutes away from it.

The Urgent Care industry is changing the way the nation thinks about healthcare (5)In Holly Springs, a hospital exists near a Fast Pace Urgent Care center... But it's a Trauma Level IV hospital, meaning that it does not accommodate as many patients as a larger care center.

What about pharmacies?Even less so; among the three major pharmacy chains in the United States — CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid — only 19 urgent care centers we tracked were more than 10 miles away from them.

In other words, 99.1% of these urgent care centers are near pharmacies, and 97.63% are near a major hospital.

And when looking at a 1 mile radius from an urgent care center, 76.97% are within that radius from a pharmacy, but only 20.3% are that close toa major hospital.

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The Urgent Care industry is changing the way the nation thinks about healthcare (6)

How busy are they?

Urgent care centers are very busy, but they are getting patients in and out in under an hour, in most cases. This compares extremely favorably to emergency rooms, which often have patients waiting hours when their cases aren't severe (or when they're simply too busy).

According to a full monthof tracking the "average number of patients waiting in line" for five major urgent care providers, nosingle locationshowed a single hourof business in which there were more than four patients in line. That at a given rate of 8 minutes per patient — as we observed with GoHealth's statistics — means thatthese five providers are self reporting a wait time consistently under 30 minutes for someone who wants to walk in and get care.

The Urgent Care industry is changing the way the nation thinks about healthcare (7)Hourly traction trends for NextCare Urgent Care offices in Texas

The Urgent Care industry is changing the way the nation thinks about healthcare (8)

The Urgent Care industry is changing the way the nation thinks about healthcare (9)Hourly traction trends for GoHealth offices in New York

The Urgent Care industry is changing the way the nation thinks about healthcare (10)Hourly traction trends for FastMed offices in North Carolina

The Urgent Care industry is changing the way the nation thinks about healthcare (11)Hourly traction trends for DoctorsCare offices in South Carolina

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Compared to Emergency Rooms, Urgent Care centers are, on average, less of a time commitment. Of course, for more major injuries and illnesses, going to the ER is a necessity. But for those trips in between over-the-counter care and a definite ER visit? The Urgent Care centers are picking up the slack — and the business.

It's already a big investment target

With its place among the healthcare industry in mind, the urgent careindustry has already seen major investments, mergers, and acquisitions. Take MedExpress,which was acquired by the healthcaregiant UnitedHealth Group ($UNH) in 2015.

Even if they are independent, urgent care companies are already deeply woven into regional health networks. For example, GoHealth partners with major healthcare companies, such as New York's largest employer Northwell Health.

There are also opportunities for individuals and groups with only a million or two in funds to also get a stake in the game. American Family Care's initial investment for a franchise "is estimated to be between $807,500 and $1,434,000, which includes the franchise fee of $55,000," according to the company's website. There is, of course, 6% royalty fee on gross sales, however.

In any case, whether it's for a single franchise or an entire company, the urgent care space — while described as saturated — appears to be becoming an integral part of the country's growing healthcare ecosystem as primary-care offices get tied into insurance companies and emergency room wait times — and costs — balloon.

Update:And even right after we published our original report, mergers and acquisitions are still happening.

HCA Healthcare($HCA) just bought 24 MedSpring Urgent Care ($PRIVATE:MEDSPRING) locations from Fresenius Medical Care. The industry is changing minute-by-minute, and it appears that some of the biggest players in the game are only getting bigger.

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - andcreates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.

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Written by James Mattone. Edited by Joshua Fruhlinger and Jon Marino. Data analysis provided by Stella Weng. Art by John Lee and Marta Lopata. Data processed by Thinknum.

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FAQs

What's the biggest problem facing the healthcare industry today? ›

Major Challenges Facing the Healthcare Industry Today
  • Cybersecurity Threats.
  • Telehealth Implementation.
  • Invoicing and Payments.
  • Price Transparency Mandate.
  • IT Healthcare Investments.
  • Patient Experience.
  • Effective Payment Models.
  • Healthcare Staffing Shortages.
24 May 2022

What solution do you think would help in improving our health care system? ›

Improve Access to Care.

Having access to care is the single most important factor for improving quality healthcare and patient outcomes. Patients must have access to the right care at the right time in order to get the right results.

What are the two major problems facing the healthcare system? ›

Costs and transparency.

Implementing strategies and tactics to address growth of medical and pharmaceutical costs and impacts to access and quality of care.

What is the main issue with access to health care? ›

Social determinants of health barriers

Race, or racial discrimination, has resulted in patient access to care problems. Decades-old racist policies like redlining have led to unequal healthcare access and thus unequal healthcare outcomes, numerous studies have found.

What factors influence the healthcare today? ›

Healthcare quality can be improved by supportive visionary leadership, proper planning, education and training, availability of resources, effective management of resources, employees and processes, and collaboration and cooperation among providers.

Do you think that the health care system in our country has improved nowadays? ›

Despite the healthcare issues in the Philippines, the system is steadily improving. This is due to government measures that are bringing the country closer to a universal system. As a result, PhilHealth provides free medical treatment to all Filipino citizens.

What is one change you think needs to be made in the current healthcare system? ›

Expand Telehealth and In-Home Hospital Services

To do that, we need to meet people where they are as much as possible when delivering care. Perhaps the most striking change in the delivery of health care that Covid-19 has generated is the rapid acceptance of telehealth by both consumers and providers.

What strategies can you use to improve access to healthcare and medical services? ›

Practices to improve access to care included addressing illiteracy and low health literacy, identifying cost-effective resources, expanding care offerings, enhancing the patient–provider relationship, and cultivating a culture of teamwork and customer service.

What are three common challenges shared by health care systems around the world? ›

Stepping back, we see that health systems in every country, at least in developed economies, face common challenges. Populations are aging, the burden of disease is shifting from infectious diseases to long-term chronic conditions, and then there's the onward march of technology.

Why is healthcare not accessible to everyone? ›

Structural barriers – Examples of structural barriers include lack of transport to healthcare providers, inability to obtain convenient appointment times and lengthy waiting room times. All of these factors reduce the likelihood of a person successfully making and keeping their healthcare appointment.

What are the 3 major problems facing the healthcare system in the US? ›

Major Problems in the U.S. Health Care System
  • Government Changes to Health Care Policies. ...
  • The Nursing and Physician Shortage. ...
  • The Opioid Crisis. ...
  • Poor Patient Outcomes. ...
  • Poor Public Perceptions. ...
  • Recommended Readings.

Why is accessing healthcare so difficult? ›

High Costs of Care

High cost is the primary reason that prevents Americans from accessing health care services. Americans with below-average incomes are much more affected, since visiting a physician when sick, getting a recommended test, or follow-up care has become unaffordable.

What are 3 factors of society that influence the health care industry? ›

Social Determinants of Health Guides

Food Insecurity and the Role of Hospitals. Housing and the Role of Hospitals. Transportation and the Role of Hospitals.

What are the biggest factors that influence health? ›

Health is influenced by many factors, which may generally be organized into five broad categories known as determinants of health: genetics, behavior, environmental and physical influences, medical care and social factors. These five categories are interconnected.

What are the factors that influence the demand for healthcare? ›

The following factors affect the demand for healthcare:
  • Needs (based on patient perception)
  • Patient preferences.
  • Price or cost of use.
  • Income.
  • transportation cost.
  • waiting time.
  • Quality of care (based on patient perception)

How can you improve public health in our country? ›

4 Ways to Improve the Public Health in Your Community for National Public Health Week
  1. Start Being Healthy at Work. ...
  2. Volunteer at a Local Social Services Organization. ...
  3. Encourage Carpooling and the Use of Public Transit. ...
  4. Pursue a Public Health Career.
11 Jan 2019

Why is it important to improve healthcare system? ›

Overall improving the quality and performance in the healthcare environment can help providers with reliable, cost-effective and sustained healthcare processes and enable them to achieve their goal of improving care delivery and enhancing patient outcomes.

Why do we need to improve our healthcare system? ›

Improving human health and providing access to affordable, high quality health care is a key concern of all countries. It is not only an ethical and social imperative; it is also a necessary ingredient for the sustainable long-term development of our economies and societies. Good health improves people's wellbeing.

Why do we need change in our healthcare system What is the importance of change in the life of the patients? ›

Changes in healthcare practice are welcome if they improve quality and safety, or save money. However, it is important to tailor health care delivery to the needs of the local population and create awareness programmes and clear communication between the public and organization is essential and highly required.

Can you suggest some ways to make healthcare services more affordable for people? ›

Poor sections of society must be provided free medicines. Primary Health Centres should be constructed in backward areas. Free medical check-up camps should be arranged to aid all sections of our society. The healthcare facilities need to be improved at all the levels of society.

What are some methods that you can use that would improve your health? ›

Path to improved health
  • Eat healthy. What you eat is closely linked to your health. ...
  • Get regular exercise. ...
  • Lose weight if you're overweight. ...
  • Protect your skin. ...
  • Practice safe sex. ...
  • Don't smoke or use tobacco. ...
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink. ...
  • Questions to ask your doctor.
3 Aug 2020

Why do we need to improve our healthcare system? ›

It avoids the cost associated with process failure, poor outcomes, and errors. Reliable and streamlined processes are less expensive to maintain. Efficient: Improving process makes wasteful activities associated with equipment, supplies, ideas, and energy more obvious and makes it easier to eliminate.

Why is it important to prevent yourself from health issues and problems? ›

Taking care of yourself prevents health problems and saves money by reducing the number of office visits and medications you need. Self-care reduces the heavy costs of healthcare associated with disease.

What are the 4 ways to improve public health? ›

4 Ways to Improve the Public Health in Your Community for National Public Health Week
  • Start Being Healthy at Work. ...
  • Volunteer at a Local Social Services Organization. ...
  • Encourage Carpooling and the Use of Public Transit. ...
  • Pursue a Public Health Career.
11 Jan 2019

How do you maintain good health essay? ›

Try to include leafy vegetables, fresh vegetables, fruits, milk, and fish in your daily diet. Make sure you are having your breakfast regularly. Skipping your breakfast regularly will definitely affect your health. If water content in your body goes low then it will lead to dehydration.

Why is healthcare so important today? ›

High-quality health care helps prevent diseases and improve quality of life.

Why is healthcare important to everyone? ›

Health insurance helps shield families from the financial risk of the unanticipated health expenses of serious illness or injury, and facilitates access to the health care system, thereby improving health outcomes.

Why healthcare for all is important? ›

Inflated insurance and health care costs place unfair demands on businesses and taxpayers. By making high-quality health care for all as cost-effective as possible, a single-payer system meets the health needs of the public and contributes to a healthy economy.

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