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They’re popping up in Boulder, Vancouver, the Twin Cities, and a scant few other locations around the country, but the question for many people—certainly the patients who may (or may not) be inclined to visit them—remains, what is an “urgency” center? As the name implies, urgency centers are intended to be a hybrid of emergency rooms and urgent care centers, without getting caught up in the controversies surrounding freestanding emergency rooms (mainly as they pertain to billing practices). Many, such as Centura Emergency & Urgent Care in Colorado, are open 24 hours every day and affiliated with at least one larger institution. Centura, for example, is a joint venture between Centura Health, a nonprofit hospital system, and The Larkin Group, which specializes in freestanding emergency rooms. Kelly Larkin, MD, one of the founders of the latter, says urgency centers help keep healthcare costs down because patients pay based on the level of service they receive. Typically, patients are either treated at an urgent care- or ED-level and on their way or admitted to the affiliated hospital. The question remains as to how an operation that offers 24-hour care by a full clinical staff can realize the cost savings of traditional urgent care vs the ED, not to mention further muddying the waters for patients who may have just gotten used to the idea that urgent care is the correct destination for acute complaints that are not life-threatening. Stay tuned.

Are Urgency Centers Becoming a ‘Thing?’