Urgent Care Education Could Reduce Employer Health Care Costs

October 21, 2011 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Employers experiencing higher medical costs due to unnecessary emergency room utilization by employees may be able to reduce those costs by better educating employees about their choices.

According to a new survey conducted by Evive Health, in conjunction with the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, 40% of employees surveyed had never used or were unfamiliar with urgent care (UC) facilities as an option. In many cases, misperceptions of UC impacted employee choice when choosing between ER or UC treatment. The survey showed that non-UC users were more inclined to believe that UC hours are limited, that locations are not convenient, and that facilities are not appropriately equipped with diagnostic equipment, such as X-ray machines.   

Thirty-seven percent also believed that ERs provide better quality of care. However, of those who actually had been treated at a UC center, 63% said they would go to UC again.   

According to a press release, the survey of 200 individuals who had visited an ER within the last 30 days but were not admitted to a hospital for treatment, found 62% of individuals were found to be either “anti-ER,” “open-minded,” or “unaware of urgent care,” and thus had a high probability of being educated or influenced by educational materials on the appropriate use of a UC versus ER.   

The press release noted that it is estimated that anywhere from 13.7% to 27.1% of all emergency room visits could take place at an alternative treatment site, such as urgent care, with a potential cost savings of approximately $4.4 billion annually, according to an October 2010 study published in Health Affairs. 

“Employee education is a key factor in helping consumers make less costly and more practical choices in urgent situations,” said Evive Health COO Prashant Srivastava, in the announcement. “Through personalized messaging that not only helps employees understand when to use urgent care, but explains the insurance coverage and costs of urgent care vs. emergency room care, and provides urgent care locations near them, employee perceptions and behaviors about urgent care can be changed.”