Urgent Care Visits Go Up (and Up, and Up) While Costs Remain Low vs the ED

The key question posed by the authors of an article published last month in JAMA Internal Medicine: How have patterns of care for low-acuity patients with acute conditions changed over time among a commercially insured population? The answer is, quite a lot—due largely (and much to the benefit of) urgent care. Working from 2008–2015 claims data supplied by Aetna, the researchers looked at utilization, inflation-adjusted price, and spending associated with approximately 20 million acute care visits per study year for acute respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, rashes, and musculoskeletal strains …
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Warning: The Future of Patient Engagement May Require Straying Beyond Your Comfort Zone

Urgent care has faced many challenges since its inception—starting with trying to get healthcare consumers and insurers to understand what it has to offer that’s different from a traditional primary care practice or the emergency room. Through true market evolution—we’re talking Darwin, here—that hurdle has helped separate the wannabes from the real innovators. The latter came to grasp that a patient-friendly approach would be one obvious attribute that could keep waiting rooms full and good word-of-mouth buzzing. Many who failed to grasp that also failed to stay in business. So, …
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Urgent Care Ownership: Corporations on the Rise, Physicians and Hospitals on the Decline

The urgent care industry—always revolutionary compared with other practice settings—is undergoing a revolution of its own. First, entrepreneurial physicians ruled the roost (recall the much-maligned and unfairly categorized “doc in a box”). Then, hospitals figured out they were missing the boat on the practice and financial benefits of the urgent care approach and began acquiring or building their own urgent care centers. As of 2016, though, corporate ownership is most prevalent, followed by physician and hospital owners, respectively. (Urgent care is not alone in this trend, by the way; the …
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One More Look at Head Injury Presentations in Urgent Care

In this issue, we’ve offered an urgent care perspective on which patients presenting with head injury are most likely to require a scan, and shared insights into one urgent care center’s efforts to get a handle on which pediatric patients with head injury really need to be transferred to the emergency room. The fact is that the CT scan remains the standard for assessing for traumatic brain injury. The question that remains is, what’s next? A recent white paper, Potential to Reduce Unnecessary Emergency Department Referrals By Up To 75% …
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When is On-Demand Care Most In-Demand?

The combination of convenience and quality is the hallmark of the urgent care industry. As time goes on and patients have an increasing array of options, however, “convenience” may be a relevant term (for example, virtual care is becoming more appealing to consumers and payers). Urgent care has taken notice and continues to expand its offerings, from the foundational walk-in visits for a sore throat to school physicals, return-to-work clearance, and support for cancer-related problems. Many patient preferences are quantifiable by age. The most basic being, when is on-demand care …
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