Treatment for new health problems, or acute care visits, encompass over one-third of all ambulatory care delivered in the United States. Given the high costs of emergency departments, many insurance plans have created incentives to encourage patients to receive that care elsewhere.
In response to patient expectations for more convenience and too long wait times at traditional physician outpatient practices, alternative care facilities such as urgent care centers, retail clinics, and telemedicine have rapidly emerged. The study was published today 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.