Urgent care clinics thriving despite quality concerns

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal noted that patients seeking alternatives to the growing lines in Emergency Departments are increasingly looking at urgent care clinics. The Journal reports that these facilities aim to fill the gap between the growing shortage of primary-care doctors and a shrinking number of already-crowded hospital emergency departments, with no appointment necessary and extended evening and weekend hours. Urgent-care clinics are staffed by physicians, offer wait times as little as a few minutes and charge $60 to $200 depending on the procedure -- a fraction of the typical $1,000-plus emergency department visit. Some offer discounts and payment plans for the uninsured; for those with coverage, co-payments vary by insurance plan but may be less than half the amount of an ER visit, which can range from $50 to $200. (SOURCE: Wall Street Journal, Landro, www.wsj.com, August 6, 2008, Page D1, Subscription Required)