More hospital systems jump on urgent care bandwagon

More hospitals and health systems plan to join the retail healthcare movement and open urgent care centers in response to consumer demand for faster and convenient access to care.

For example, Partners HealthCare, Massachusetts' largest health system, will open up to 12 urgent care clinics over the next three years, according to the Boston Globe. Other providers in the area, such as Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Lahey Health and Steward Health Care System have already either opened or partnered with urgent care centers, but none of them approach Partners, the parent organization of 10 hospitals, for size or name recognition. The system also plans to establish more of the centers than any of its competitors, according to the article.

"This is more than a pilot for us," Gregg S. Meyer, M.D., chief clinical officer of Partners, told the Globe. "These are meant to be extensions of availability and convenience for patients. We know we are not always as available as possible for our patients."

Similarly, Kansas City's Shawnee Mission Health last week announced a new network of urgent care centers staffed by board-certified physicians, with the first set to open in September, according to the Kansas City Business Journal. Shawnee, in partnership with Centra Care, will open a total of six urgent care centers over the next two or three years.  

The increased proliferation of urgent care centers, in addition to providing a speedier, cheaper option for patients, has eased the burden for emergency rooms, much like stand-alone ERs, which are similarly on the rise, according to Larry Blumenthal, chief financial officer at Phoenix, Arizona-based Good Night Pediatrics, an all-night pediatric urgent care clinic. "A significant percentage of ER patients can be properly treated in an urgent care setting in a fraction of the time," Blumenthal wrote in the Las Vegas Sun.

However, some experts have raised concerns about hidden costs associated with urgent care, as many organizations claim to accept major insurer plans but it is unclear as to whether they are in-network providers, FierceHealthFinance previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the Globe article
- read the Business Journal article
- here's the Sun column

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