Sounding Off: J. Kaplan and A. Figueroa “Why Urgent Care Centers are A Viable Solution?”
As the ACA deploys across the United States, American based hospital systems and other health care providers are searching for both new, incremental revenue streams and cost savings opportunities. Patients are searching not only for quality but also for convenience, emotional connection, easy access and affordability.
Depending upon geographic location and demographic composition many possibilities exist for the provider to achieve this goal. For the patient, the one universal solution is the availability of quality urgent clinics whether they are managed by a hospital network, a drug chain and/or a privately held corporation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Americans made 136.1 million visits to one of the country’s nearly 3,900 emergency rooms in 2012. “Survey estimates that one-third to one-half of all ER visits is for non-urgent care. The main reason that so many emergency room visits are for non-urgent care is that hospital EDs are required by federal law to provide care to all patients, regardless of their ability to pay".
It is estimated that 31%, or close to 15 million of the Hispanic population is uninsured. While 5 million Hispanics are expected to become insured under the Affordable Care Act an anticipated 10 million Hispanics will still remain uninsured.
Let’s do the math – using figures provided by Debt.org, the nation’s debt help organization, on average an individual will contract some kind of minor illness or receive a wound once in each 12 month period and will elect to visit a health provider for treatment. If the approximately remaining 10 million uninsured Hispanics were educated to visit an urgent care facility, using the $166 per visit cost, per Rand Corporation, that would represent new revenue growth of $1.7 Billion for the urgent cares, as the patient would understand the benefits and value of the healthcare services provided. Conversely, if that same group visited an ER, with an average cost per visit of $570.00, the hospitals potential net loss is $5.7 Billion if providers perpetuate the believe that ERs are “free”.
Who is Leading the Pack?
Urgent Care of America reports that approximately 9,000 urgent care centers operate in the United States and on average each center treats 342 patients a week. In June of 2013 MacGuire Woods issued a legal alert entitled “Transactional Trends in Urgent Care”. They reported that the fast growth of urgent cares has caught the attention not only of those in the insurance and hospital sectors but also among venture capitalists.These authors note that urgent cares have grown in first five months of 2013 through mergers and acquisitions as well as through organic growth.
Implications of Urgent Cares and the Latino Patient
Over the course of the past 12 months the authors have also seen a very aggressive move from retail groups, insurance groups and hospital systems to enter the urgent care model. What we have not seen is a corresponding Latin Ready™ strategy, to educate and
engage the Hispanic patient about the value and necessity of urgent care facilities.
This will have numerous implications. As we stated in our first article in this series,Understanding the Changing Face of America: A Matter of Health, we believe that this group is more likely to misuse ER services or enroll in preventative care, is going to remain confused about what the ACA means and more than likely will believe “care is now free”.
The Billion-Dollar Question!
The Author’s believe that all people should be entitled to equal and affordable care regardless of their country of origin or socio-economic standing. We also believe that patient confusion regarding medical care will be overwhelming for the unprepared provider and the number of people seeking care remains underestimated, particularly among undocumented residents.
Therefore, the billion-dollar ethical and economical question becomes, how do providers begin the process of keeping their bottom lines healthy?
We believe it will be by educating employees and patients about how, when and where to seek and provide appropriate quality care. In reality there are simply too many unknowns tied to ACA to conclude realistically that any provider will be able to instantaneously be “all things to all patients.”
Based upon what we do know today about ACA, cultural tendencies and demographic composition, it is reasonable to conclude that hospital systems and urgent care centers located in densely Hispanic states will fall into one of three categories:
- Those who chose to become culturally ready to serve their patient populations will “thrive and have a healthy outcome”.
- Those who have made minimal or cursory attempts at cultural outreach will require “organizational therapy”.
- Those who have made no attempt to be Latin Ready™ will require “ICU”.
Early intervention aimed at the Hispanic population is the correct ethical and financial answer for many health care Providers in the initial stages of “Obamacare” and beyond. Becoming Latin Ready™ is strategically easy to activate and immediately measureable in terms of return on investment.