Significant changes are coming to the healthcare sector, changes that will improve patient health outcomes, be cost-effective, and provide an ease of access to care like never before. Each trend has a connection to a trendsetter, the urgent care industry.
Coming Clean on Costs
Imagine going to a restaurant and not knowing what cost of the meal would be until after you finished eating. Of course, we rely on menus to see the prices. Now medical care is finally coming clean on costs.
In 2021, hospitals around the country will be required to publish all their prices online, including those they negotiate with insurers and disclose out-of-pocket costs.
President Trump signed an executive order in 2019 that calls for increased pricing transparency in healthcare so that consumers could understand upfront the cost of service. The change gives people the ability to make more informed decisions about their care and allows them to shop around for a better deal.
With increased information available to consumers, payers and providers are incentivized to improve quality and cost, driving down healthcare prices without compromising the level of care.
American Family Care has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to pricing transparency. AFC provides patients with value-based care and upfront pricing on treatment; no government involvement needed. It is the AFC way to make sure patients get the right care, at the right time, at the right place, at the right price.
Skyrocketing healthcare costs and limited access, along with long wait times at doctors’ offices are prompting Americans to take their health into their own hands in the form of self-care. There is a new focus on healthy eating and weight loss, exercise and fitness, even meditation and mindfulness. These alternative strategies are driving the massive growth in the wellness industry, which is now valued at $4.2 trillion. In the United States, it’s estimated the industry will reach over $179 billion in 2020.
“Once upon a time, our contact with wellness was occasional — we went to the gym or got a massage. But this is changing fast — a wellness mindset is starting to permeate the global consumer consciousness, affecting people’s daily decision-making — whether food purchases, a focus on mental wellness and reducing stress, incorporating movement into daily life, environmental consciousness, or their yearning for connection and happiness,” noted Katherine Johnston, in a recent article from the Global Wellness Institute. “Wellness, for more people, is evolving from rarely to daily, from episodic to essential, from a luxury to a dominant lifestyle value. And that profound shift is driving powerful growth.”
Employers are also recognizing the benefits and cost savings of wellness programs in the workplace. In the Winning with Wellness report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, more than 60 percent of employers said workplace wellness programs reduced their organizations’ healthcare costs. Some examples of workplace wellness programs include ensuring healthy lunches and snacks in employee breakrooms, providing on-site gym services and fitness or yoga classes, and stress management workshops.
Urgent care centers like AFC play a role in the wellness movement, too. The access to care makes it easier to get a wellness checkup and preventative care. Patients can walk in to an AFC and get a cholesterol check easier and faster than they would have if they had to make an appointment at a primary care office.
Retail Healthcare Reality
Pick up some dish soap and get a flu shot? This is the reality of retail health clinics. These medical clinics can be found in pharmacies, grocery stores, and “big box” stores, such as Target and Walmart. Retail health clinics saw a 445 percent growth rate between 2006 and 2014, and there are an estimated 2,800 plus U.S. locations.
Like their urgent care counterparts, retail health clinics offer extended weekend and evening hours, walk-in availability, and short wait times. The clinics provide some types of (not all) vaccines and preventative care and may treat a limited range of health conditions, such as minor infections and injuries. Nurse practitioners or physician assistants provide the care. Prices are typically fixed and transparent.
Primary Becoming Secondary?
Traditional primary care is on life support in the United States. Thanks to a shift in cultural values and demographics, visits to primary care physicians declined 18 percent between 2012 and 2016. When urgent care centers first came on the scene, they were thought of as a place to go for emergencies. Now patients are turning to urgent care centers, like AFC, for more of their health needs. The top three reasons given by patients for not visiting a PCP include it took too long to get an appointment, unbearable wait time at the doctor’s office, and no walk-in appointments available.
The number of urgent care clinics jumped 19 percent between 2015 and 2018, according to the Urgent Care Association (UCA). They suggest 89 million patients visit urgent care clinics each year, or more than 29 percent of all primary care visits in the country, and nearly 15 percent of all outpatient physician visits.
The idea of these healthcare entities being two separate things is going away. Urgent care now crosses over into the primary care space, with a more comprehensive scope of services beyond the convenience and ease of access it became known for.
Many urgent care centers are able to provide x-rays, lab work, and prescriptions, all in one visit under one roof. Consumers prefer convenience over credentials and provider continuity, and when urgent care is the only medical care being administered, urgent care turns into primary care.
A recent poll suggests 45 percent of adults between 18 and 29 did not have a primary care physician, preferring the ease of access and affordability of urgent care over traditional doctors’ offices or hospitals. This number shows growing interest in urgent care as a serious primary care physician alternative.
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