Urgent care centers and emergency rooms (ERs) throughout the U.S. consistently strive to put new measures into place to reduce patient wait times. However, during the holiday season, a spike in wait times tends to be inevitable, leaving waiting rooms full of sick people.
While wait times are likely to be more extended throughout the entire holiday season, the period between Christmas and New Year’s is often even worse.
The increased wait times at urgent care centers are caused by many factors, which can leave patients waiting several hours to be seen by a medical professional. Below, this post will explore the many situations that can occur during the holiday season that contribute to these lengthy urgent care wait times.
Many factors often cause lengthy wait times throughout the holidays. Some of the most common reasons for long wait times include:
One primary reason is the cold weather. The holiday season happens to be during the same time that the flu and the common cold tend to float around, which results in overall more patient volume.
The holiday season is a joyous time, full of visits with friends and family, but spending more time inside means more contact with people. More contact can lead to an increase in the spread of viral illnesses. In addition, the rise of COVID-19 cases during the winter can fill waiting rooms with even more patients than usual, including those waiting for COVID-19 testing.
Given the rise of respiratory illnesses spreading during the holiday season, this also poses the issue of more staff calling out. Fewer available staff can then contribute to longer wait times for patients. In addition, many staff may take off time to spend with their families for Thanksgiving, New Year’s, Christmas, and other holidays. In turn, this can leave urgent care centers short on staff, scrambling to hire more temporary staff to fill in during the holiday season.
Urgent care centers may also fill up during the holiday season with patients who typically see their doctor in an outpatient office. If doctor’s offices are closed, many patients will turn to urgent care centers with minor issues or non-emergent concerns. This can make wait times extra long for those with more pressing health concerns.
During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, some patients neglect the maintenance of their chronic conditions. Whether it’s attending holiday parties or shopping, patients with conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes may ignore regular visits with doctors.
This, combined with a poor diet, can leave individuals with chronic conditions at a higher risk of developing illness. For this reason, urgent care centers often see a rise in patient volume during the holiday season.
Some urgent cares may also experience a higher patient volume due to holiday-related accidents. This could be outdoor injuries related to holiday decorations, car accidents, or injuries/illnesses associated with alcohol intoxication.
Patients must understand the difference between an urgent care visit and an emergency room visit. Urgent care services are an excellent choice for conditions that need to be addressed promptly but are not considered emergencies. Some examples of conditions that can be treated in urgent care include flu symptoms, dehydration, minor cuts or wounds, or sprains and strains. Urgent care can also be helpful for the treatment of urinary tract infections, diarrhea, earaches, or stomach aches.
On the other hand, the emergency room should be reserved for severe, critical medical emergencies. For example, chest pain, seizures, severe burns, or eye injuries would warrant a visit to the emergency room.
Patients can help reduce wait times in emergency rooms and urgent care centers during the holiday season by selecting the appropriate healthcare facility to seek treatment. In addition, utilizing mobile telemedicine or urgent care services can help you access treatment faster and eliminate the need to wait hours to get help.
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With this service, you won’t need to worry about waiting hours in the urgent care waiting room. Mobile Care Health also offers weekend and evening availability, working around your urgent care needs. Contact us today to learn more about our mobile urgent care service.