The overarching surge in emergency department (ED) visits nationwide has created an access issue marked by prolonged patient wait times and healthcare provider burnout, according to an influencer article in Med City News by Benjamin Barlow, MD, Chief Medical Officer for Experity. Dr. Barlow notes patients often disregard urgent care (UC) as a viable alternative to the ED, which contributes to the strain on ED clinical teams. Too often, consumers seek non-emergent healthcare in EDs because of insufficient awareness of UC’s services, he says. Urgent care leaders can play a role in alleviating ED stress by educating patients and the provider community on UC’s capacity to deliver a range of immediate care services. UCs must communicate their accessibility, extended hours, and care services, emphasizing their role in easing ED overcrowding and reducing clinician burnout. Expanding on higher acuity skills and ensuring consistency in UC centers will make all the difference, he says in the article.
Dollars make sense: Dr. Barlow points out that the US healthcare system has something to gain by relying on UC, too: “ED visits are approximately 10 times more expensive than UC visits.” He also cites average cost comparisons between UC and primary care for a new patient at $242 and $294, respectively. Access, efficiency, quality, and cost are the key messages of urgent care’s market position