Urgent care (UC) is one of the fastest growing venues of health care delivery. We compared clinical and cost attributes of pediatric UC and emergency department (ED) visits that did not result in admission.
Our study examined 5 925 568 ED and UC visits of children under 19 years old in the 2010 through 2012 Marketscan Medicaid Multi-State Database. Basic demographics, diagnoses, severity, and payments were compared. Between ED and UC visits, χ2 tests were used for proportions and Wilcoxon rank-sum tests were used for continuous variables.
The UC and ED had the same most common diagnoses. Over half the UC visits were low severity. The ED had a higher rate of return within 7 days (8.4% vs 6.9%, P < .001) and follow-up with their primary care physician (22% vs 17.2%, P < .001). Few (<1%) were admitted on return visits from the ED or UC. Payments for UC were significantly less (median $76.90 vs $186.20, P < .001). This continued to hold true when comparing payments for selected diagnoses and each severity level. By extrapolating the cost savings, a national Medicaid per-year savings, if all lowest severity level visits were seen in UC, was more than $50 million.
UC and ED Medicaid visits have similar most common diagnoses, rate of return, and admission. Severity level and payments were lower in UC. There is potential significant cost savings if lower acuity cases can be transitioned from the ED to UC.