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Increase in Urgent Care Visits as ER Visits Fall, Study Finds

In a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers document that among private health plan enrollees, in recent years, there has been a substantial shift from emergency departments to urgent care centers when it comes to patients receiving care for low-acuity conditions.  In the cohort study, a team of investigators focused on the period between January 2008 and December 2015, examining de-identified data from Aetna, a large, commercial health insurance company, which insured approximately 20 million members per study year.  The team found that from 2008 to 2015 there was a large drop in emergency room visits and a substantial increase in the use of urgent care centers. Retail clinics and telemedicine utilization also increased substantially during this time, but when compared to urgent care centers and emergency rooms, they still accounted for a small number of visits.

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