Urgent care veterans, insurers, and certainly any patient who has ever visited both have been saying this for a long time, but a new study out of Vanderbilt University Medical Center confirms that freestanding emergency rooms are likely to charge more (sometimes a lot more) than urgent care centers for the same services. The study, newly published in The Journal of Emergency Medicine, uncovered certain cost characteristics of freestanding EDs that had been converted from urgent care centers. For example, patient volume dropped after a facility was converted from an urgent care center to a freestanding ED, while median reimbursement per visit went up at each of the three facilities studied. In facility A, it rose from $148 per visit as an urgent care center to $2,153 as a freestanding ED; in facility B it went up from $137/visit to $1,466/visit; and in facility C it increased from $131 to $1,925. At the same time, while there was a slight increase in visits related to potentially serious diagnoses, overall there was little difference in the acuity of care provided. The most common diagnoses both before and after conversion were upper respiratory infections (42.8% of urgent care visits vs 26% of visits at the freestanding EDs).
Study Spotlights Huge Disparity in Cost Between Freestanding EDs and Urgent Care