David Robinson, Reporter- Albany Business Review
FEBRUARY 9, 2015 – The urgent care boom is heading toward a goal of reducing health care spending annually by $4.4 billion, according to a new report on the shift away from traditional emergency rooms.
Urgent care centers have gained traction as many hospital executives seek savings under the Affordable Care Act. The centers offer a mixed bag of services – think somewhere between a primary care doctor and emergency room.
The United Hospital Fund’s report touched on a range of urgent care issues, including a lack of oversight and regulations.
The New York City-based organization’s report also outlined the financial benefits from an ongoing push to wean hospitals off revenues from emergency departments, which remain one of the most costly ways to deliver medicine.
According to one estimate, 13 to 27 percent of all emergency department visits could be handled at an urgent care center or retail clinic—a potential annual cost savings for the health care system of $4.4 billion, the report shows.
That is an important number considering hospital systems are investing millions of dollars and transforming thousands of jobs in the Albany, New York region. An Albany Business Review cover story told of the high stakes involved in the partnerships and mergers tied to the strategy.
Other key data included the latest tally of urgent care centers reaching about 9,000 nationally, though exact figures are difficult to provide because federal registration is not required, the report shows.
Of those 9,000, doctors or physicians’ groups own 35 percent. Corporations own 30 percent of the total, while hospitals own 25 percent. The remainder are owned by non-physician individuals and franchisers, the report shows.
Here is the United Hospital Fund report on urgent care centers and separate but related retail clinics.