In the past, Reid would have headed right to the emergency room. But last month, the part-time
"It was pretty nasty," said Reid, who also lives in
Urgent care clinics are sprouting up like
Urgent care is new way of consuming medicine in the age of Obamacare -- estimated to be a
"It's anecdotal, but I believe Obamacare has played a huge part of it," Lobel said. "We are seeing more insured patients as a result of it."
It's estimated by market analysts that there are more than 9,400 walk-in urgent care clinics in
The patient who needs immediate relief for a variety of ailments can come to the clinic and may eventually be referred back to the family physician.
"Although some providers believe urgent care centers disrupt coordination and continuity of care, others believe these concerns may be overstated, given urgent care's focus on episodic and simple conditions rather than chronic and complex cases," according to a 2013 brief by the nonpartisan
Lobel said most patients choose their urgent care clinic because of location or word-of-mouth. He warned though not all clinics are equal, noting more than 50 percent of clinic owners have only one facility.
Complaints from patients usually are about wait times, followed by misdiagnoses. For clinics to survive, quality of care is paramount to sustaining this new paradigm in providing medical care.
"The question we ask our patients in our surveys isn't 'Would you come back?' It's 'Would you recommend us to somebody else?'" Lobel said.
"I think the market will shake itself out," Lamelas said. "The little locations will have difficulty. They will get bought up or they will merge."
One repeat customer without complaints is
Md Now received an infusion of money from investors in
"I wanted to create the anti-emergency room," Lamelas said. "I wanted to fill the void between the family practice doctor and emergency room. The gap in care I knew was missing."
Hospitals indeed have taken notice.
The idea is these patients will come for a sprain and then choose West Boca when they need a more involved procedure. "We will be able to retain them completely in our health system for all of their care," Feldman said. "We would have more complete service care."
As the hospitals duke it out, the urgent care centers are reaping the rewards on the non-emergency care side, redefining the doctor's office for the 21st century.
Urgent care clinics are staffed by doctors and health practitioners, but they are not emergency rooms. Walk in with a symptoms of a heart attack and the receptionist will call an ambulance. But for a cut, a sports injury or a urine test, urgent care clinics fit the bill. They are open on weekends and at night -- unlike the office of many family practitioners.
"People are seeing the benefits of coming to us rather than going to ER," Lobel said. "There is a social conscience point of view, as well. Why would we want the ER being cluttered up by patients who don't need that service? The ER's don't want them and the general public doesn't want to be there."
Ritucci said the urgent care business model brings the fast-food approach to medicine.
"I term it the McDonald's society. We want what we want when we want it," Ritucci said. "It is care convenience. When you look at urgent care centers they are open between 12 and 16 hours. They are open every day. You can go before work, you can go on your lunch hour, you can go after work."
Unlike a doctor's office where one assistant might multi-task, urgent care centers have people designated to take vital signs, to stitch up lacerations, draw blood, perform X-rays, lab samples, etc. "The design of the centers is so they are able to see higher volumes of patients in the efficient manner," Ritucci said.
And urgent care centers are hitting the mark with patients who need flexibility. When Palm Beach Urgent Care extended the hours of its clinic on
Lobel, who describes himself as a serial entrepreneur, spent hours in a
"Opening an extra four or five hours at night isn't cheap," he said. "But people hurt themselves all hours of the day."
And employers like it because the urgent care clinics can do it so cheaper than emergency rooms. A
Still, with urgent care clinics proliferating like ducklings, could there be a saturation of the market? There are only so many patients to go around.
Lobel doesn't think so.
"You get into a bubble, and then you have a consolidation," he said. "They do seem to be everywhere, but I got to tell you our business just on the urgent care side has grown by more than 30 percent in the last year. The patient load from my perspective keeps on increasing. I don't see how we've reached the saturation point."
(c)2015 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)
Visit The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.) at www.palmbeachpost.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC