“The number of urgent care centers across the country has increased over the past decade and more will continue to open,” said Dr. Robert Kimball, president of the board for the Urgent Care Association of America. “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will insure more than 34 million previously uninsured Americans by 2019. Those people will want medical care, which means the demand for all health care services will only continue to rise.”
Kimball said it is important to understand the differences between urgent care and emergency centers prior to seeking medical care.
Urgent care centers accommodate patients with minor conditions, such as sprains, the flu, colds, infections, other common illnesses and minor stitches. Freestanding emergency centers or hospital-based emergency rooms should only be visited in the event of a life-threatening situation, Kimball said.
Urgent care centers
In early September, Community Urgent Care opened its doors to patients along Hwy. 249 in the Tomball area. With four exam rooms, the clinic treats patients with a variety of symptoms, such as eye, ear and sinus infections, common allergies, asthma, bronchitis, coughs, colds, food poisoning, poison ivy and stomach pain, said Osama Shuja, manager and head of marketing at Community Urgent Care.
“Basically an urgent care facility is a bridge between an emergency room and your primary care physician,” Shuja said. “It offers some services that an emergency rooms does without the wait and high prices that emergency rooms are charging nowadays.”
The average wait at the clinic ranges from about five to 20 minutes, Shuja said. Community Urgent Care accepts Medicaid and Medicare patients and is working to accommodate all forms of insurance, he said.
An average visit to an urgent care center is $155 compared to $750 to $1,250 for a typical ER visit, Kimball said. Wait times can also vary significantly from a few minutes to several hours, he said.
“Magnolia is a critical piece of our strategic plan and the strategic direction of our organization. Growth is continuing to go into that marketplace, and we’re trying to be proactive and address the needs.”
—Brett Kinman, chief operating officer of the Tomball Regional Medical Center
“Some insurers also feature lower patient copays for urgent care service than treatment in an emergency room, making urgent care the more affordable option for immediate but nonemergency, nonlife-threatening situations,” Kimball said.
In early March, Affinity Emergency Center at Magnolia opened to patients in the Magnolia Landmark Building along FM 1488.
“Magnolia is a critical piece of our strategic plan and the strategic direction of our organization,” said Brett Kinman, chief operating officer of the Tomball Regional Medical Center. “Growth is continuing to go into that marketplace, and we’re trying to be proactive and address the needs.”
The center offers emergency room care as a department of TRMC to treat broken bones, serious illnesses and provide other care by board-certified physicians, he said.
“We also have an imaging center there as well, so they’ve got full service,” Kinman said. “It’s staffed by emergency physicians 24/7, 365 days a year. They can take on just about anything and everything there that we can take care of [at TRMC in Tomball].”
The Tomball area received a new emergency center last November with the opening of Parkway ER along Kuykendahl Road.
The center offers treatment for a variety of emergencies, such as blood clots, allergic reactions and chest pain as well as burns, cuts, concussions and seizures, office manager Luisa Rodriguez said. The ER also offers CT scans, X-rays, ultrasounds, labs and electrocardiogram tests.
“We have physicians and nurses who have emergency room experience,” Rodriguez said. “They are prepared and ready for any emergency—they have seen anything and everything.”
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