Urgent Care Centers and the Demand for Non-Emergent Emergency Department Visits
Urgent care centers (UCCs) are a cost-efficient substitute to the emergency department (ED) for non-emergent conditions, but no study has identified their impact on ED demand. We address this gap using a novel strategy that exploits daily UCC operating times in a differencing framework. After UCCs close each day, local non-emergent ED visits increase by 1.43 percent (over the adjusted mean rate of 70.58 percent) in areas with multiple UCCs. This effect occurs only among the privately insured population, the target customers of UCCs. Our results suggest that UCCs are successfully substituting for EDs in the treatment of non-emergent conditions.
We thank participants in seminars at Emory University, West Virginia University, and the 2016 Southeastern Health Economics Study Group in Richmond VA for helpful feedback. This work was funded by a grant (R36HS2484501) from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.