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New initiative seeks to direct patients to urgent care
07.05.2011While hospital emergency rooms are a good option for individuals who may have a major medical condition, such as a heart attack or stroke, they are much more expensive for patients who simply have a fever or need a few stitches. However, most of the patients that hospitals see are in the latter group, which drives up healthcare costs for everyone.
In order to alleviate this problem, the insurer WellPoint recently launched a new program to educate consumers about the benefits of urgent care facilities versus emergency rooms and to help people find these locations.
Officials from the group cited studies that have found up to 14 percent of all emergency room visits could be handled elsewhere, which could save the country $4.4 billion each year. Furthermore, many of the procedures that patients pay $100 to $200 for in an emergency room could be provided at an urgent care facility for $10 to $40.
WellPoint's new website includes listings of local urgent care facilities and information about whether or not it is appropriate to visit them given a person's symptoms.
"It's important people know that they have options to treat less serious ailments other than an ER," said Dr. Manish Oza, a medical director at WellPoint who worked on the program.
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