Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, patients who may have previously gone to the closest hospital emergency room for nonemergent complaints simply went without care or managed to get care through other means. According to an article just published by Fierce Healthcare, margins at those hospitals have suffered accordingly, with the real threat that they’ll continue to do so thanks to patients’ new reliance on urgent care, telehealth, and other options. As a result, some hospitals are taking on more risk-sharing relationships with payers, while others look to partner with urgent care operators, telehealth companies, or ambulatory surgery centers. In addition, the Fierce article foresees a shift in the demographics of the hospital audience, so to speak, with older patients who have a greater demand for high-acuity care (perhaps magnified by delaying care during the pandemic) making up a more significant portion of their inpatient population. As a result, hospital systems will have to make an effort to capture more outpatient revenue through external partnerships with urgent care (or, as we’ve seen in recent months, through acquisition) or other off-site care providers.

Decreasing Margins May Move Hospitals to Partner More Frequently with Urgent Care