As I have watched the crescendo of noise and news around the repeal and replace of ACA over the last weeks, I found myself hoping that the baby does not get thrown out with the bathwater. Last week, I found myself at my local urgent care/stand-alone ER. I can choose from three within a mile or two. I choose this center because it is a hybrid offering both urgent care and ER services and it is open 24 hours. I also like the young ER doc who is usually there.
Like 70% of primary care practices, my PCP does not offer after hours care and currently it takes about five days to get a sick appointment in her practice. I have learned a lot about healthcare delivery from my doctor friend. He left his job at a large ER to participate in this experiment to offer urgent care and ER care in a single facility. He gets to control the balance of his life, spend one on one time with patients and take a stand in how he delivers medicine.
This center is a part of “The ER Savings Initiative, a movement to educate and inform consumers, employers, and governments about the excessive and unnecessary utilization of the emergency room. The Hybrid Community Care bills patients as urgent care or emergency care based on the level of service needed thereby saving millions locally in unnecessary charges with better outcomes.”
Personally, this seems like a brilliant concept to me. Entering the facility as an urgent care patient and being treated as such, usually meets all our needs. On a couple of occasions, after some tests and a long discussion with the physician, a decision was made to move to ER services. This choice came with a clear discussion of the reason, signatures on multiple forms, explanation of the additional cost and an actual physical move to a different treatment room.
Not only was this exceptionally convenient, but it allowed me to go home in much better condition than would have occurred without the ER option. Every employee in the facility is a part of a team and is willing to function in any necessary role and to do so with a great attitude and smile. Procedures are performed promptly and efficiently without hours spent waiting.
Keeping the facility staffed is sometimes a juggling act and the physician in charge directs the patient flow. The tech who started my IV told me that the “acuity level” of care he delivers is not as high as it was at the hospital ER, but he likes the doctors, the patients and the way he is treated. The facility is always staffed with an ER doctor as well as a support team. Urgent care centers often allow physicians much more control over their schedule.
Over and over candidates are making choices which allow them to retain control over their lives. In a survey in 2016, The Inline Group found that 44% of graduating residents list “quality of life” as their number one job factor. Of the primary care candidates surveyed, 70% list location as their first consideration when making a job change.
The ACA has changed the delivery model of healthcare in America. Physicians have more choices today about where they want to practice and given the choice they continue to choose work-life balance. The exponential growth of urgent care centers and innovative options will continue to entice physicians interested in treating patients in more non-traditional settings.
Chris Mathew, COO of The Inline Group, and I will be attending and speaking at the Urgent Care Association of America Urgent Care Convention and Expo later this year and learning even more about the trends taking place in urgent care. If you'd like to know more about what we're seeing in staffing urgent care centers, contact us and we'll be happy to share our data.