Fast Takes: News & Trend Lines, August 2013
Consumer demand spurs urgent care center growth
According to a new qualitative study conducted in six metropolitan areas by the Center for Studying Health System Change, the growth of urgent care centers is driven heavily by consumer demand for convenient access to care. At the same time, hospitals view owning urgent care centers as a way to gain patients, and health plans see opportunities to contain costs by steering patients away from emergency departments. There are currently almost 9,000 urgent care centers in the United States.
Overall, respondents in Detroit, Minneapolis, Phoenix, San Francisco, Raleigh-Durham, NC, and Jacksonville, FL, perceive that the centers improve access to certain services for insured patients. Furthermore, they believe that the centers don’t significantly disrupt existing relationships with primary care doctors or coordination of care. However, respondents report a lack of data to show whether urgent care center growth generally saves money by diverting patients away from emergency departments, or increases costs by drawing patients away from primary care practices.
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