CEO Healthcare Column
CEO Mary Ellen Pratt is extremely knowledgeable about the issues facing healthcare today. Visit this page monthly to keep up with her popular healthcare column which is featured in local newspapers.
The growth of convenience care models
Unfortunately, illnesses and injuries aren’t on the same 9 to 5 schedule as most Primary Care offices. While we always encourage patients to see the family doctor that knows them best whenever possible, sometimes it just isn’t possible. Maybe you don’t even have a Primary Care Physician yet. So, what are your options?
Before the emergence of Urgent Care Clinics in the 1970’s, our options were seemingly simple—just wait for an appointment or go to the Emergency Room. But, honestly, what’s so simple about spending the night miserable or waiting possibly hours to get help for an illness or injury that may be fairly simple to diagnose and treat. Furthermore, ER’s are staffed heavily to be prepared for serious emergencies and lifesaving procedures—so your bill will reflect that level of expertise.
Fast forward to the creation of “immediate care clinics” and “convenience care models.” Patients with serious, but nonlife-threatening illnesses and injuries can now walk into an Urgent Care without an appointment—and more and more are doing just that. The number of Urgent Care Clinics is trending way up.
WHY PEOPLE CHOOSE URGENT CARE
The Urgent Care model is convenient. If you find yourself needing care after hours and on weekends, you can choose to wait for an appointment or find an Ur-gent Care. At Urgent Care, you don’t have to choose a set appointment time. You can walk-in when it works for you. Additionally, if you were able to push through the work day, but you start to feel really bad after being stuck in the carpool line, you now have an option for yourself. Not to mention the things you notice on kids after dark or all of the times you weren’t sure if “it was broken” or “it needed stitch-es.” If you are too worried to wait, you have an option and it’s pretty convenient.
Urgent Care Clinics are fast. Getting treatment at an Urgent Care doesn’t mean spending your entire night in a waiting room. According to the Urgent Care Association (UCA), 94% of patients wait 30 minutes or less to see a provider. A much lower statistic than that of the average ER.
Urgent Care costs are comparatively low. In addition to saving time, an Urgent Care Clinic—compared to an ER—usually saves money for both patients and insurance providers. Because Urgent Cares are created to help patients that have an urgent but not necessarily life-threatening issue, they are staffed appropriately to treat these common injuries and illnesses. And, this is what you pay for. A 2016 study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine estimates that ER treatment costs are about 10 times more than the average Urgent Care.
THE GROWTH AND EVOLUTION OF URGENT CARE CLINICS
With so many benefits of Urgent Care, it is no surprise that the number of clinics in the United States has grown steadily for the last five years. According to the UCA, there are now nearly 9,000 clinics nationwide. Both patients and insurance providers are seeing the benefits of this model in reducing costs and unnecessary ER visits. In fact, UCA reports that 98% of patients who sought urgent care chose the appropriate setting and were able to be treated independently from an ER.
As the Urgent Care Model continues to evolve, another trend being cited is the alignment of Urgent Care Clinics and Hospitals. Historically, Urgent Care Clinics were opened by private chains—who still hold the greatest number of clinics. In the last few years as the focus on population health, care coordination and better integration grows, more and more hospitals are opening Urgent Care Clinics to of-fer patients a seamless (and historically missing) link in the continuum of care.
The utilization of Urgent Cares are also evolving when it comes to their patient mix. Millennials may be leading the way and driving demand for Urgent Care Clinics, but the senior patient population has grown. UCA stats show that over ¼ of patients seen in Urgent Cares last year were Medicare or Medicaid patients. In addition, even Medicare is getting on-board and trying to test the waters in an effort to reduce costs by leading a pilot program that will give seniors who are not in critical condition the option to be transported to a treatment center other than an ER—such as an Urgent Care.
Another trend contributing to the growth and evolution of Urgent Care Clinics is the integration of Urgent Care and Occupational Medicine. Since Urgent Care Clinics tend to be busiest when physician offices are closed, Urgent Cares often have the expertise, space, equipment and staff needed to provide Occupational Health Services—which are often scheduled during the day.
WHAT WE CAN OFFER
St. James Parish Hospital can offer a more seamless experience because our Ur-gent Care has a “medical home.” Since St. James Urgent Care is one of the hospital’s clinics, it and our Primary Care Clinics work together for you. Each clinic utilizes the same electronic health record. If you came to St. James Urgent Care and later followed up about a similar issue with one of our hospital’s physicians, your doctor could review the notes from your Urgent Care visit to help better create your treatment plan.
Also, although statistics show most patients choosing Urgent Care can be seen and treated, if our practitioners believe it is safest for you to be evaluated in the ER, our emergency services are on-site. You will not have to drive to a completely separate location. We will assist you if needed and/or contact our ER team to let them know you are coming and why.
In addition to emergency services, our Urgent Care patients have access to all of the hospital’s diagnostics on-site and can easily be referred to local specialists as needed (which often see patients in the same building as our Urgent Care).
Lastly, our local Urgent Care is staffed primarily with local people. Because St. James Urgent Care is a hospital clinic, you will likely see familiar faces and you can expect the same level of service and quality as our Primary and Specialty Care Clinics.
WHAT WE WILL OFFER
Thanks to overwhelming community support and the wonderful feedback we have received about St. James Urgent Care—which is located in Lutcher next to the hospital—we will be expanding. We have been working to come up with a plan for the shared space in the Medical Plaza and in the short term, we will be offering new hours and additional days to help more patients in our Urgent Care. Stay tuned for the latest announcement.
In the near future, we will also be kicking off an exciting project that will offer more space for an additional Urgent Care expansion and integration including a dedicated space for Occupational Health Services. This allows our hospital to better serve the River Parishes by working with local industries and employers to offer quality, community-based Occupational Medicine.
Stay healthy. Stay local.