Study: More patients are heading to urgent care centers

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NEW YORK —  David Weiner knew it was time to see a doctor after feeling under the weather for almost a week.

“I had a sore throat for the past few days and wanted to get checked out, and a rash on my hands and face.”

So he walked into Northwell Health-Gohealth Urgent Care in New York.

“You are seen quickly and get good service and much easier than going to my primary care doctor.”

New research in JAMA Internal Medicine found that the number of people treated at urgent care centers has more than doubled over the past eight years, while visits to primary care doctors and the emergency room for non-life threatening conditions are declining.

“We are a lot more convenient. Patients can look at our wait times live online.”

Dr. J.D. Zipkin said the centers treat a wide range of conditions from cold and flu to broken bones and injuries that need stitches. But he said urgent care should not replace regular doctor visits and that emergencies always require a trip to the emergency room.

“The time that is not appropriate to go to urgent care is things that really need the emergency room like heart attack, strokes, major motor vehicle accidents or any other large trauma that really needs an emergency room.”

Most urgent care visits cost significantly less than an emergency room visit, and are similar in price to a primary care visit.

In less than 30 minutes, Weiner left with a treatment plan for his sore throat and poison ivy.

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