Impact Non-Urgent Care ED Visits

A sizable number of patients who visit the ED do not require the level of care that an emergency room provides. In Maryland, for example, patients with non-urgent medical problems account for over 40 percent of ED visits (Maryland Health Care Commission, "Use of Maryland Hospital Emergency Departments: An Update and Recommended Strategies to Address Crowding," January 1, 2007, p. 31, at).

Leveraging OnlineCare virtual urgent care platform will help hospitals achieve the Triple Aim, improving the individual experience of care; improving the health of populations; and reducing the per capita costs of care for populations. Based on a 2013 study published by the Center for Studying Health System Change, patients are increasingly turning to urgent care centers for convenient and timely care.

This growing trend in patient preference and use is largely driven by the following three factors:

1) Patients cannot access or receive timely care at an ED (e.g., the wait time is too long)

2) The type of illness is not serious enough to be treated at an ED;

3) The patient’s physician office or primary care clinic is closed.

According to the Urgent Care Association of America, hospitals own approximately 27% of the nation’s 9,000 urgent care clinics, and this number is expected to increase as hospitals look for ways to build a loyal patient base, keep patients out of the ED while strengthening care coordination, and increase overall patient satisfaction. Urgent care centers have the ability to serve as an important vehicle to manage population health because they are an inexpensive and convenient alternative to EDs or physicians’ offices.

OnlineCare has pushed the bar a bit higher. Using our “Virtual Urgent Care” technology, patients now don’t even have to go to urgent care centers unless needed. With our partnership with local urgent care centers and hospitals, a virtual care model can be easily deployed to provide the care using OnlineCare’s technology.