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Readers of JUCM News are painfully aware of downturns in urgent care patient visits throughout much of the COVID-19 pandemic. As testing supplies and now vaccines have become more readily available, and patients feel safer venturing to healthcare facilities, a healthy rebound is in effect at urgent care centers across the country. According to an article just published online by Modern Healthcare, however, hospital emergency rooms are having a tough time recouping the patients who found other avenues for immediate care during the pandemic. Per data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ED visits dropped 42% in March and April of 2020 compared with prepandemic levels. Quoting an analyst from Kaufman Hall, the Modern Healthcare article notes that ED visits are still 15% to 20% lower than previous averages—and that urgent care and telehealth may continue to grow in popularity as alternatives to going to the ED. The prognosis is not good for hospital operators, either, as UnitedHealthcare just announced plans analyze ED visits by plan members, and to stop or reduce payments on ED visits that are found to be nonemergent.

Urgent Care Centers Had It Bad at the Height of the Pandemic, but ED’s May Take a Bigger Hit