Some freestanding EDs charge 10 times more than urgent care centers: 4 statistics

Seventy percent of Colorado patients who visited freestanding emergency departments in 2014 sought care for non-life-threatening health concerns that could have been treated at less-expensive urgent care centers.

A recent Center for Improving Value in Healthcare report examined the difference in costs between freestanding EDs and urgent care clinics for the same treatments in Colorado. For the study, CIVHC analyzed 2014 claims data from across the state and compared median payment costs between eight standalone EDs, hospital-based emergency rooms and urgent care clinics.

Below are four study findings.

1. Nearly 70 percent of patients that visited freestanding EDs went for non-life-threatening conditions. The following conditions were among the top 10 non-life-threatening reasons patients visited standalone EDs: common cold, urinary tract infection, open wound on fingers, sore throat, bronchitis, ear infection and ankle sprain.

2. Only 30 percent of patients who visited hospital-based EDs went for non-life-threatening events.

3. For all non-emergent conditions evaluated in the study, both freestanding EDs and hospital-based ERs charged at least $400 more than urgent care facilities for the same treatment.

4. Both freestanding EDs and hospital-based ERs charged on average $980 to administer treatment for bronchitis or a urinary tract infection, compared to $100 charged by urgent care centers.

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