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Retail clinics reduce unnecessary ER visits by up to 12%

Retail clinics have been successful in reducing emergency room visits for minor and preventable conditions, according to a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The authors examined ER visits in New Jersey from 2006 to 2014 and compared trends in areas with retail clinics. They found residents were 4.1 percent less likely to visit an ER for diabetes complications if they lived within two miles of an urgent care clinic, and residents were 12.3 percent less likely to go to the ER for severe flu symptoms if they lived within that two-mile radius. Proximity to a retail clinic also reduced the likelihood of visiting an ER for minor conditions by between 4.7 percent and 11.4 percent, according to the report.

Diverting care for flu and diabetes to retail clinics at these rates would generate cost savings of more than $817,000 per 100,000 people, according to the report. If people across New Jersey lived within two miles of a retail clinic, it could generate more than $70 million in ER savings. The authors write that this is likely an underestimate of potential savings because data is primarily based on only two conditions. However, their estimate does not include potential cost increases from retail clinic visits.


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