As healthcare continues to progress from a centralized, hospital-based system to a more distributed ambulatory one, alternative care models and settings have proliferated. Urgent care centers (UCCs) have been among the most successful of these new models. The urgent care industry has expanded rapidly, with revenues growing at 4.3% per year over the past five years, reaching $24.9 billion in 2017.1 Visits to UCCs have increased by 19% over the same time horizon. UCC providers, often independent entities that focus on a subset of the healthcare continuum, have long observed this trend and invested in the space. Health systems have been generally slow to follow but are starting to adopt the model and can still play an important role by providing urgent care that is integrated with a broader suite of services. To be effective, health systems will need to understand the underlying trends bolstering urgent care. While there are several factors driving growth, three are particularly important.
By focusing on these three factors, health systems can better decide how to develop a strategy that results in broadly accessible, lower-cost, convenient care for patients. Unlike independent UCC providers, health systems have the capability to position UCCs within a broader, more integrated delivery system, creating unique value for patients. Further, UCCs offer an important entry point for new patients. The recent experiences of two regional health systems with a combined 700,000 annual visits indicate that between 30% and 50% of urgent care patients are net new to the systems. The factors driving UCC growth now will likely remain, and patients will continue to choose affordable, convenient, and accessible options—whether they are offered by health systems or not.
IBISWorld Industry Report 0D5458