It’s widely recognized that while freestanding emergency rooms are perfectly good places to go for walk-in care, the cost associated with that care is exorbitant compared with urgent care (and even more so compared with primary care or retail clinics). The problem is compounded by the fact that many patients who visit freestanding EDs think they’re walking into an urgent care center and are later hit with surprise bills. A new study in Academic Emergency Medicine quantifies just how steep the cost really is. Researchers evaluated total spending on emergency care, out-of-pocket spending, utilization, and price-per-visit at freestanding emergency rooms in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, and Texas between 2013 and 2017, concluding that freestanding EDs led to an increase in spending per capita and out-of-pocket spending in three of those four states. These findings are a reminder that patients need to know what kind of facility they’re visiting. If the term “urgent care” is not part of your branding—say, you use terms like “immediate care” or “walk-in” for example—consider adding clarifying signage so prospective patients can be confident that they won’t be hit with a big bill in the coming weeks.

 

New Data Reinforce the Need for Urgent Care to Differentiate from Freestanding EDs
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