Ask HRC: When Is It Appropriate to Redirect Patients from the ED to Urgent Care?

June 22, 2020 | Healthcare Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance

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A Healthcare Risk Control (HRC) member recently contacted us when the healthcare organization's marketing department wished to place a sign outside the emergency department (ED) advising patients to consider going to an urgent care center for certain symptoms. The member asked if this action was advisable.

In our reply, we noted that the reasoning behind posting a sign that refers patients with conditions better served in nonacute care settings to an urgent care center is understandable. Such an initiative could help reduce wait times in the ED, while also making sure these patients do not become sicker by being exposed to patients with infectious diseases. Furthermore, urgent care center visits are usually less costly than ED visits, meaning that a patient can save money and possibly time. Pointing patients toward urgent care also follows a trend. A recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine confirms that patients are increasingly...

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