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University of Florida Health has announced the opening of three 24-hour “hybrid” emergency-urgent care centers. The centers are staffed by board-certified emergency medicine providers and have many of the same capabilities as an emergency room, including advanced lab and multi-slice CT scanners. Patients are screened upon arrival to determine whether they require emergency or urgent care—with an estimated 70% of those patients able to be seen on the urgent care side at lower urgent care rates. According to Alan Ayers, senior editor of JUCM, hybrid FSED-UC models are gaining popularity with health systems who seek to decant hospital trauma centers of nonemergent patients and provide a less capital-intensive solution for medically underserved areas than building new hospitals. Ayers explained the 24-hour model can serve patients during the “‘tween hours” when the urgent care is closed but patients don’t think they should wait overnight for care. “Typically, after midnight, a patient won’t leave home unless it’s a true ‘emergency,’” Ayers said. “The risk with hybrid models is, patients who may be expecting ‘urgent care rates’ may get hit by unexpected facility or out-of-network provider fees from a freestanding ER.” He added that much of the excess utilization of emergency rooms is among Medicare and Medicaid populations, “so the other risk is that health systems locate these in areas where they can get higher ED reimbursement from government payers, which negates urgent care’s value proposition of ‘cost savings.’” The centers have been developed in partnership with Dallas-based Intuitive Health, which has similar FSED-UC partnerships with other health systems around the country.

Is It an Urgent Care Center? Is It an Emergency Room? The Answer Is…Yes