A new report from UnitedHealth Group reveals that around two-thirds of the 27 million annual visits to U.S. emergency rooms are unnecessary. Those 18 million encounters carry an average cost of $2,032 each, adding up to a $36 billion price tag for care that could be provided more easily and just as safely elsewhere for a fraction of the cost. The same brief notes the average cost of a trip to an urgent care center is $193. If everyone who went to the ED unnecessarily went to an urgent care center instead, the annual cost would be $3.5 billion—less than 10% of the current burden, or a savings of $32 billion. UnitedHealth defines an “avoidable trip” as one that could be treated in primary care, such as bronchitis, cough, dizziness, flu, headache, low back pain, nausea, sore throat, strep throat, and upper respiratory infection—all classic urgent care presentations. Cite these figures in negotiations with payers and prospective occupational medicine clients. They’re all deeply invested in keeping people healthy, but paying as little as possible to do it.
Urgent Care Could Be Saving the Healthcare System $32 Billion a Year