The rapid expansion of Urgent Care Centers (UCC) over the past decade has raised the tantalizing possibility that UCCs could be a cost-effective alternative for visits that do not need the full capabilities of an emergency department (ED). On the surface, this seems to make sense. In our new study in Health Affairs, the average UCC visit cost only $171 compared to the staggering $1,646 for an ED visit.
COVID-19 changed every aspect of our lives, from shopping for groceries to visiting doctors. Early public health messages encouraged people who thought they could put off emergency care to avoid the emergency department (ED), to save capacity for an anticipated surge of COVID cases.