Urgent Care centers are opening and growing rapidly throughout the country. With the large influx of newly insured patients and the desire for convenience, Urgent Care centers are becoming ever more popular. While this is good news for patients who can’t take time off of work to visit their primary care provider, it means trouble ahead for healthcare recruiters across the country.
As the physician shortage continues to loom, the demand for APCs continues to grow at a faster rate than the supply, and patients migrate to a more retail medicine model, both Urgent Care centers and traditional primary care practices are beginning to feel the strain.
Difficulty Recruiting Primary Care Physicians
The shortage of Family Medicine and Internal Medicine physicians is not news to most physician recruiters. As more Americans become insured, the need for primary care physicians will only continue to increase and many practices already find it exceedingly difficult to recruit enough Family Medicine and Internal Medicine physicians. Urgent Care centers draw from this same pool of potential candidates and are similarly finding that staffing their centers is a constant challenge. Many Urgent Care centers have already closed due to their inability to hire enough physicians to meet demand, and those that do attract enough primary care candidates are drawing many of those physicians away from traditional primary care practices.
Strain on Preventative Care
Urgent Care centers offer a high degree of flexibility, with the option of per diem work, part-time work, and often 3 to 4 day work weeks. This flexibility is great for physician candidates, but can decrease the number of primary care physicians available for preventative care that can decrease healthcare costs and manage complex chronic diseases. Due to the rotating schedules of these Urgent Care providers, patients will rarely be able to establish long-term relationships with physicians that can improve quality of care and the likelihood of a patient following through with recommended treatments.
Demand for Physician Extenders
The shortage of Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners is also acute in today’s healthcare landscape. Facing staffing challenges, both Urgent Care centers and primary care practices are attempting to recruit these advanced practice providers in order to offset the lack of physicians. Once again, both traditional and urgent care practices are competing or the same pool of prospective candidates, exacerbating the difficulties each are facing in recruiting enough providers to meet patient demand. Additionally, competition from retail clinics is also pulling these providers out of Urgent Care and primary care practices.
There is no easy way to currently solve the issues that the proliferation of Urgent Care centers are causing in the healthcare recruitment landscape. As both primary care and Urgent Care continue to compete for the same pool of candidates, both will also have to find ways to make their positions more appealing in a variety of ways:
- Urgent Care centers will need to emphasize the flexibility of their employment models, as well as the level of acuity providers will be seeing on-site, in order to attract quality candidates.
- Primary Care practices will need to continue to attract physicians committed to creating long-term relationships with patients and within the community, as well as those who desire a predictable schedule and family friendly hours.
- Both practice models will need to find ways to utilize new technology (including telemedicine) to meet increasing patient demand with fewer on-site providers.