Local news outlets, insurers, and countless urgent care operators have tried to help patients understand when it makes the most sense to go to an urgent care center, as opposed to the emergency room or a retail clinic. Now Consumer Reports, a publication viewed as unimpeachable by many, is taking a crack at it. An article recently published there suggests the urgent care center may be the best choice when a patient needs stitches or assessment of a suspected fracture or has a minor asthma attacks, but also explains that an urgent care center is well equipped to handle everything that can be treated in a retail setting. Its analysis also points to the ongoing growth in the number of urgent care centers as evidence that the industry is now an indispensable part of the healthcare fabric of America. Perhaps most significantly, though, it stresses the importance of choosing the best care setting for the patient’s complaints, both in terms of getting the right treatment as soon as possible but also not paying more than is necessary (eg, paying emergency room fees vs the cost of an urgent care visit). Consumer Reports supports that notion by quoting a 2016 Annals of Emergency Medicine study that showed the cost of going to the ED can be 10 times that paid in the urgent care setting for the same diagnosis.
Need a Resource for Patients Confused About Urgent Care? Try Consumer Reports