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A shortage of providers while patient visits climb due to flu, respiratory syncytial virus, and COVID-19 is having a negative impact on multiple practice settings. Compounding the challenge in urgent care is the fact that some patients turn to this setting when they’ve already experienced delays in getting care in primary care, specialty practices, or the emergency room. We’ve told you recently about one urgent care center that’s dealing with the traffic-flow problem by going to an appointment-only model, but other operators are choosing to take another look at telehealth as a possible solution. Long ignored by much of the industry due to concerns about reimbursement and the potential for overprescribing, virtual care may be viewed by some now as one way to provide care to patients who otherwise would simply forgo medical attention all together. MercyOne just went virtual-only with a pair of its locations in Iowa specifically because of high patient volume and low staffing, according to an article published in the Des Moines Register. And Becker’s Hospital Reviewreported that Mount Sinai Health Systems in New York is referring some patients who call 911 to a telehealth provider. EMS still shows up but if after conducting an assessment they determine the patient’s situation is nonemergent they refer the patient to telehealth instead of transporting them to the ED. That initiative may be expanded to include trips to urgent care instead of the ED at some point down the road, according to Mount Sinai.

Visits Are Up, Staffing Is Down—Moving Some UC Operators to Reconsider Telehealth