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Urgent care facilities may help make care more affordable
07.12.2012Urgent care benefits can play an important role in reducing healthcare costs and ensuring that patients receive the highest quality treatments possible, suggests a new study published in the journal Health Affairs.
Back in 2009, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts launched a pilot program that changed the way physicians get paid. Instead of reimbursing doctors for every patient visit and service delivered, the system gave participating medical groups a set dollar amount at the start of each month to handle all the needs of each patient.
The idea behind this type of pay-for-performance model, as it is known, is to give physicians a stake in keeping patients well. When patients are healthy and have few health needs, doctors essentially get to keep more of the money for themselves.
The trial showed that this model can reduce healthcare spending by as much as 3.3 percent in a single year. These savings were achieved largely through limiting healthcare utilization and making sure that patients received only the services that they needed from appropriate providers.
This is where urgent care facilities come in. A significant portion of the savings were achieved by helping patients avoid emergency rooms, which are often very costly, compared to other providers.
Dana Gelb Safran, a vice president at Blue Cross and researcher at Tufts University, told the Boston Globe that many patients who would have gone to hospital emergency rooms in the past were instead directed toward urgent care centers, which are able to deliver the same quality as emergency rooms at a fraction of the cost, in most cases.
The study indicates that urgent care benefits may figure largely in efforts to reform the healthcare system and make it more affordable.
Categories: Urgent Care Services
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