Cover: Many Emergency Department Visits Could Be Managed at Urgent Care Centers and Retail Clinics

Many Emergency Department Visits Could Be Managed at Urgent Care Centers and Retail Clinics

Published in: Health Affairs, vol. 29, no. 9, Sep. 2010, p. 1630-1636

by Robin M. Weinick, Rachel M. Burns, Ateev Mehrotra

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This study was published in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal. The full text of the study can be found at the link above.

Abstract

Americans seek a large amount of nonemergency care in emergency departments, where they often encounter long waits to be seen. Urgent care centers and retail clinics have emerged as alternatives to the emergency department for nonemergency care. We estimate that 13.7-27.1 percent of all emergency department visits could take place at one of these alternative sites, with a potential cost savings of approximately $4.4 billion annually. The primary conditions that could be treated at these sites include minor acute illnesses, strains, and fractures. There is some evidence that patients can safely direct themselves to these alternative sites. However, more research is needed to ensure that care of equivalent quality is provided at urgent care centers and retail clinics compared to emergency departments.

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