Study Challenges Cost-Saving Potential of Urgent Care

Although urgent care centers have long been trumpeted as a more economical care option than the emergency department (ED) for non-life-threatening conditions, a new study suggests that health insurers might want to re-evaluate that truism.

The study, published in the April issue of Health Affairs, builds on past research by confirming that the presence of urgent care centers in any given area does in fact reduce lower-acuity ED visits. Yet researchers went a step further and asked whether urgent care centers reduced ED visits enough “to make up for the fact that more people are going to go to care when it’s more convenient and lower cost and closer and presumably lower wait time,” explains Ari Friedman, M.D., one of the study’s co-authors and an assistant professor of emergency medicine, medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Leslie Small

Leslie Small

Leslie has been working in journalism since 2009 and reporting on the health care industry since 2014. She has covered the many ups and downs of the Affordable Care Act exchanges, the failed health insurer mega-mergers, and hundreds of other storylines spanning subjects such as Medicaid managed care, Medicare Advantage, employer-sponsored insurance, and prescription drug coverage. As the managing editor of Health Plan Weekly and Radar on Drug Benefits, she writes and edits for both publications while overseeing a small team of reporters who also focus on the managed care sector. Before joining AIS Health, she was a senior editor for the e-newsletter Fierce Health Payer, and she started her career as a copy editor at multiple local newspapers. She graduated with a dual degree in journalism and political science from Penn State University.

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