A multicenter pilot program in California is studying whether urgent care centers could be a destination for ambulances carrying lower-acuity patients. Paramedics in participating locales receive advanced training to triage and transport 911 patients with cuts, soft-tissue injuries, and wounds or illnesses they deem to be minor to urgent care centers instead of hospital emergency rooms.
The patient must consent to participate in the program, and can choose from a list of urgent care centers.
St. Joseph Hoag Health, MemorialCare and Kaiser Permanente are among the hospital systems participating. The latest communities to opt in are the Orange County cities of Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, and Newport Beach.
The statewide program is one response to parameters of the Affordable Care Act, specifically those mandating that medical professionals work to improve patient care while reducing cost. In addition, if successful, it is expected that the program will lower volume in overcrowded emergency rooms.