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Report Finds Urgent Care Centers Not Associated With Decrease in Total Healthcare Costs

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While urgent care centers do keep some lower-acuity patients from visiting costly emergency departments, their presence is not associated with a drop in total healthcare costs, according to a report in Health Affairs, writes Healthcare Dive.

Using commercial claims and enrollment data from 2008 to 2019, researchers found an increase of 1,000 lower-acuity urgent care visits resulted in 27 fewer lower-acuity ER visits. The entry of a high-volume urgent care center into a ZIP code was associated with a 31% drop in emergency visits. However, while ER trips were far more costly ($1,716 vs. $178), each $1,646 ER visit was offset by $6,327 more in urgent care costs because the number of urgent care visits per enrollee required to reduce one ER visit was 37.

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