At a central intersection in Highlands Ranch — where South University Boulevard and Highlands Ranch Parkway meet — sits a UCHealth Emergency Room. Less than half a mile north is a Concentra Urgent Care. Three miles to the west, near Town Center, is an OnPoint Urgent Care. And 3 1/2 miles east, in Lone Tree, is another OnPoint Urgent Care.
Meagan Watson — whose 7-year-old son has had seven sets of staples or stitches in four years — likes the low cost and minimal wait time of an urgent care center.
But she wonders why there are so many.
“Maybe they figure there are a lot of little kids in the area — which is what I use it for,” she said.
A trend nationwide
There are two urgent care centers — the OnPoint Urgent Care and Concentra Urgent Care — and a UCHealth Emergency Room in Highlands Ranch. Another one, Centura Urgent Care, is under construction along Highlands Ranch Parkway, near the South Broadway intersection. A hospital has been proposed for the Central Park development behind the Target shopping center along Lucent Boulevard, just across the street from the Children’s Hospital Colorado facility.
Littleton Adventist Hospital is a few miles down Broadway in Littleton and Sky Ridge Medical Center is about seven miles away in Lone Tree, which also has its share of urgent care and freestanding emergency rooms.
The boom in health care facilities across the south metro region — particularly in urgent care centers — reflects a national trend fueled by consumers’ desires for convenience and affordability, experts in the health field say.
According to the Urgent Care Association of America, the rise in these facilities is driven by difficulty in finding primary care, physicians seeing and acting on medical needs in their communities, and rising popularity among patients.
Urgent care centers — which are important to distinguish from freestanding ERs — offer longer hours of operation, shorter average wait times and lower out-of-pocket costs, according to Steve Sellars, president of the board of directors of the Urgent Care Association of America.