The Annals of Emergency Medicine found that emergency room visits among the elderly were increasing more rapidly than any other age group in 2007, as reported by The American College of Emergency Physicians. Further, in 2008, emergency room visits were at an all-time high of 124 million. Overcrowding is a serious problem that prevents patients from receiving adequate care; however, recent studies suggest that urgent care and retail health clinics could reduce emergency room visits, saving $4.4 billion in U.S. health care costs.
According to a September 7, 2010 article on Bloomberg Businessweek, a new U.S. study suggests that 17% of all emergency room visits could be handled by an urgent care clinic. Often, patients with non-emergency yet urgent situations have no choice but to visit an emergency room, because urgent care clinics are not readily available in most areas.
It is estimated that 13.7% of all emergency room visits could be treated in retail medical clinics, which are typically based in pharmacies or grocery stores. Retail medical clinics can treat a limited number of minor conditions, such as sore throats and urinary tract infections. Urinary tract infections, however, are a common reason for assisted living residents to visit the emergency room, because they can cause a broad range of symptoms and behaviors that may not be easily identified or treated by facility staff.
An additional 13.4% of emergency room visits could be handled by an urgent care clinic — an independent medical facility that can handle a broader range of problems, such as minor fractures and more serious lacerations. Urgent care clinics are usually open on evenings and weekends, filling the need for patients with urgent needs outside of typical physician’s office hours.
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