Urgent care insiders and advocates have known it intuitively for a long time, but now data are bearing out the fact that urgent care centers really do help thin out the congestion (and associated cost) in emergency rooms—especially in areas where there are multiple locations to choose from. A multistate study by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows there’s a 1.4% increase in ED visits by privately insured patients when urgent care centers are closed for the day. It doesn’t sound like much, but that adds up to roughly 2.4 million visits annually. Assuming an average cost savings of $414 every time a patient goes to urgent care instead of the ED for a nonemergent complaint, these data would correspond to saving nearly $1 billion in healthcare spending annually.
The Data Are in: ED Visits Go Up When Urgent Care Centers Are Closed