Urgent care centers seem to be popping up all over the country and for good reason. Primary care physician offices and emergency departments are struggling to meet patient demand, and urgent care centers offer a level of service that fits nicely between those two settings. According to the American Academy of Urgent Care Medicine, there are approximately 9,300 walk-in, stand-alone urgent care centers in the United States, with nearly 750 new clinics opening each year. The Urgent Care Association of America’s 2012 Urgent Care Benchmarking Report confirms this trend, finding that more than 85% of urgent care centers expect to see growth in their numbers of visits. The surge in demand for these facilities has led Barton Associates to see an increase in demand for urgent care locum tenens physicians and nurse practitioners as well. Locum tenens professionals with experience in family medicine and emergency medicine will likely find many urgent care locum tenens job opportunities in the coming years as the urgent care market continues to expand. So why have urgent care centers become so successful? It’s all about accessibility. Emergency department Emergency departments continue to struggle with increasing demand. In the United States, the number of ED visits increased 11%, from 107 million in 2001 to 120 million in 2006. However, during the same period, the number of EDs increased only 4%, from 4,600 to 4,800. This leads to long wait times. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the average ED wait time was 58 minutes in 2009. Long wait times can deter patients from getting care, or worse. A recent study found that patients admitted to the hospital from the emergency room on days with high ED crowding were 5% more likely to die in the hospital. Urgent care centers are a much quicker and convenient option for patients who don’t require the full breadth of emergency resources. According to the 2012 Urgent Care Benchmarking Report, 69% of urgent care patients wait less than 20 minutes to see a provider and less than 1% waited longer than 60 minutes. Primary care office visits For a long time, urgent care centers were a popular option for uninsured Americans who needed stop-gap care until they could find coverage. While that remains true today, the physician shortage has caused more insured Americans to turn to urgent care centers for their basic healthcare needs. Andrew Sussman, president of MinuteClinic and Senior Vice President/Associate Chief Medical Officer of CVS Caremark, says 80% of Minute Clinic’s patients are insured and half have a primary care physician. With the Affordable Care Act set to add millions of newly insured Americans to the healthcare system, accessibility will continue to be a problem for patients and a boon for urgent care centers.